When the Boston Bruins lost the first game of their opening round series to the Detroit Red Wings, it was more a frustrating defeat than a deflating one. The Red Wings limited Boston’s opportunities by clogging the defensive zone and making sure no second-chance shots were available. The Bruins found some openings late, but could never cash in, resulting in a 1-0 loss. Not wanting to head to the Motor City down 2-0, Boston clearly needed to change their game plan for Game 2.
And change their game they did, with a vengeance. Boston took the ice yesterday in Game 2 and threw the hammer down on the Red Wings throughout the first period. It seemed like every Bruin had a hit within the first five minutes, as the team upped the physicality like there was no tomorrow. The Red Wings struggled mightily to get through the neutral zone, as the Bruins bottled them up on more than a few occasions. On top of that, Boston put bodies in front of Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, something they were unable to do in Game 1. The result was a 4-1 victory, and proof that, if the Bruins want to win this series, they’ll need to play the punishing hockey they’re known league-wide for.
To be fair, though, Boston noticeably took their foot off the gas a bit in the second period. Whether it was the result of the team going on cruise control with a 2-0 lead or just being low on energy after flying like bats out of hell in the opening frame, the physical presence wasn’t as intense. Boston held an 18-10 shot advantage in the first period, but only registered 11 for the rest of the game compared to Detroit’s 25. It may have worked yesterday, but the Bruins won’t win this series if they only play intense in one out of three periods.
Still, the goal was to avoid giving Detroit a 2-0 series lead heading to Joe Louis Arena this Tuesday, and that mission was accomplished. Boston plays their best hockey when they’re aggressive enough to get under the opponent’s skin and get them off their game, and this is what happened yesterday. Why else would 6’2” Brendan Smith attempt to fight certified Bruins giant Zdeno Chara? The Red Wings were beyond frustrated with Boston pushing them around, and it caused their game to unravel a bit.
Again, though, the Bruins need to play this way for a full 60 minutes, not just 20. We’ll see if Boston can maintain this aggressiveness on Detroit’s ice come tomorrow. If they can ramp up three period’s worth of punishment every game, the odds will definitely favor them advancing.