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It’s that time of year again, and what better way to start the Bruins 2014 playoff journey than an Original Six match up against the Red Wings? Led by the elusive Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit has booked their reservation to the postseason for 23 years in a row now. I’ve already projected the Bruins to beat Detroit in 6 games, but let’s take a deeper look at how they match up.
The Bruins finished 3rd in the league with 3.15 Goals/game, whereas Detroit sat at 16th with 2.65. The Bruins boasts four deep lines that Julien can roll through regularly, which only a small handful of teams have the ability to do. Krejci-Lucic-Iginla is as talented, but more importantly well-balanced, as any line in the league. Go on down the line and Bergeron, Marchand, Smith, Eriksson, and Soderberg all provide great secondary scoring that creates a match up nightmare for opposing teams.
On the other side, Detroit has multiple weapons at their disposal. Datstyuk who has started to show signs of age, is still an elite offensive talent. Then there is Gustav Nyquist, who came out of seemingly nowhere this season and was the hottest goal scorer in the league since the Olympic break. They also have some underrated scorers like Tatar and Abdelkader, but don’t have quite the depth that the Bruins do.
Even without Seidenberg, the Bruins defense has been stellar all season long. Here’s a crazy fact: the Bruins were second in the league in Goals Against Average, but still led all teams with points by defensemen. Talk about a well rounded group. It all comes down to Chara, though. He’s the anchor and quite an unpleasant guy to play against. If he’s on his game, good luck to his opponents.
Detroit’s blue line is headlined by Niklas Kronwall. Long gone are the days of Lidstrom, and thank goodness for that. Kronwall, while not quite the dominating presence that Chara is, is a very physical player who can contribute offensively. But as a whole, this group just isn’t as strong as what the Bruins offer.
Let me cut this short by saying that I believe Tuukka Rask is the best goalie in the world right now. On top of that, I think Jimmy Howard is overrated. Tuukka is better in every statistical category and he’s had some great postseason success already at a young age. Howard has a losing record in the playoffs in his career (20-22-2) and most of his success came 3-4 years ago. Rask, on the other hand, just keeps getting better.
It should not go unmentioned that Detroit has a 3-1 record against the Black and Gold this year. Neither should it go unmentioned that the Wings have guys like Datsyuk, Bertuzzi, Alfredsson, Franzen, Cleary, and even Head Coach Mike Babcock that know what it takes to win and won’t be easily intimidated. However, their superstar captain Henrik Zetterberg is not expected to be back for the first round which is a huge break for the Bruins.
Detroit is a respected team and a worthy opponent for the Bruins. In a sense, it’s good for Boston that they get to play a team like the Red Wings early who will challenge them, make them earn their goals, and not take a night off. I think the Wings are good enough to take two from Boston, but that’ll be all. Bruins in 6.