BOSTON (CBS) — Well, that’s more like it.
After an altogether too-safe approach in Game 1 against the Red Wings, the Bruins got back to being the Bruins in Game 2. And credit the Red Wings with an assist for helping the B’s get there.
For whatever reason, the normally peaceful Red Wings decided to muck things up on Sunday afternoon at the Garden. That is most certainly a terrible strategy for most teams when playing the Bruins, and that truth is multiplied tenfold when you’re a team with just seven fighting majors all season long.
Yet things went from chippy to nasty very quickly on Sunday, which only served to help make the Bruins reach their best.
It was the same mistake that Pittsburgh foolishly made last year in Game 1 vs. Boston, with Sidney Crosby starting “fights” with Tuukka Rask and Zdeno Chara instead of being the best player on the planet, and in this instance, it really cost Detroit a chance at victory.
Whether that will continue throughout the series remains to be seen, but for perhaps the first time all season, the Red Wings saw firsthand what made the Bruins the best team in the NHL this year.
Now let’s run through some leftover thoughts.
–It was a tough day to be a Smith. Reilly got absolutely rocked in the neutral zone by Niklas Kronwall (video here), and Brendan looked like a crash test dummy when he got plastered into the end boards by David Krejci.
That wasn’t the worst part of the day for Brendan Smith, though. That obviously came when he tried to act tough and goad Zdeno Chara into dropping the gloves and taking a penalty. The Bruins captain was more than willing to dance — he just wasn’t going to drop his gloves until Smith did the same. Smith was obviously just bluffing and wanted no part of Chara, and Chara knew it. So Zdeno decided to laugh in poor Brendan’s face, while mixing in a couple of soft bops to the face. It was a hilarious display of dominance, and it came at the expense of Brendan Smith’s manhood.
Sorry, Brendan, but that’s a TKO. There is no coming back from that.
–Side note: I’ve legitimately never seen Zdeno Chara that happy. Even after the Bruins pulled off the miracle comeback in Game 7 against Toronto last year, Chara was careful to not smile for longer than 0.3 seconds at a time after the game. Even when he lifted the Cup over his head for the first time in 2011, he seemed more psychotic than the did happy.
–I’ve also never seen David Krejci throw a hit like this:
I felt like Krejci was targeted a bit in Game 1 by the Wings, as he was a recipient of a few heavy hits in the series opener. He was once again roughed up a bit in Game 2, but hitting Brendan Smith in a car crash-type hit is a good way to respond.
–The President’s Trophy winners played a playoff game on Sunday and got their first two goals from Justin Florek (playing in his sixth ever NHL game) and Reilly Smith. This is why you can’t predict anything in sports and why if you gamble on them, you probably lose a lot.
–The referees stunk. Plain and simple. It wasn’t one-sided, and it wasn’t unfair to one team. It was just … bad. Shawn Thornton went to the penalty box 1:32 into the game for … illegal touching? Tomas Tatar went to the box a couple of minutes later because Zdeno Chara fell over. Daniel Alfredsson felt a stick on his shoulder pad and his knee somehow gave out, and the refs called Loui Eriksson for hooking instead of Alfredsson for embellishment. Kyle Quincey gave David Krejci a shove, which should be allowed in the playoffs, but was issued a two-minute minor for roughing. Brad Marchand wanted to fight Tatar after absorbing about a half-dozen cross-checks to the lower back, but instead the striped shirts got involved and allowed nothing to happen.
It just seemed like referees Chris Lee and Francois St. Laurent were eager to get their mugs on TV, so their families could see them on Easter. It was lousy.
–Tuukka Rask has a 1.00 goals-against average thus far in the playoffs. Not to brag or anything, but I did that math all by myself in my head just now. (It’s actually a 1.02 GAA because of the two minutes he’s spent on the bench, but if I listed that stat first, I wouldn’t have been able to brag about my math skills. Deal with it.)
The fact that it’s taken a snipe by one of the sports’ most gifted players and a double-deflection off a stick and a glove to beat him in the first 120 minutes of this series is a good sign for the Bruins that their netminder is locked in.
–Jimmy Howard came way out of his net two or three times in Game 1 to make plays on the puck. It worked in Game 1. It did not work in Game 2.
Howard actually talked about how he watched 22-year-old Detroit netminder Petr Mrazek play the puck effortlessly in the regular-season finale, and how he was trying to emulate Mrazek with some of his plays in Game 1.
“Watching Petr in St. Louis in the last game of the year, he doesn’t hesitate he just goes out and does it,” Howard said after the Game 1 shutout. “You’re never too old to learn something new, so thanks, Pete.”
After Howard came way out of his crease and fired a snap shot at the hip of Brendan Smith, allowing Justin Florek to shoot into an empty net for the game’s first goal, I think the Bruins were the ones saying, “Thanks, Pete.”
–Part of the Bruins’ problem in Game 1 was finding shooting lanes from the outside. Detroit did an excellent job of clogging all lanes with not one set of legs but often two or three sets, and as a result the Bruins had just 16 shots on net through two periods and 25 shots total in Game 1. Well in Game 2, the Bruins had 18 shots in the first period alone, and a major reason they were able to pile up shots — and goals — was a willingness to play a man’s game and carry the puck right to the goal mouth. Carl Soderberg in particular skated strong to the front of the crease and drew a slashing penalty on Danny DeKeyser midway through the first period. Reilly Smith scored on the ensuing power play to double the B’s lead at the time.
Loui Eriksson did some dirty work in front on that goal, screening Howard and then banging away at the puck to slip it through the goalie’s five-hole. Everyone was willing and able to pay the price that comes with going to the areas that aren’t so comfortable to go to, and the 4-1 result was not a coincidence.
–If I were sports commissioner, my punishment of Milan Lucic for his Game 1 stick to DeKeyser’s groin would not have been a $5,000 fine. No, instead prior to puck drop of Game 2, I would have set up a chair at center ice, a chair that would keep Lucic’s legs spread apart. I’d then invited DeKeyser out to center ice, where he’d have a free shot at Lucic’s special area. For good measure, the victim of the first crotch attack would get two whacks at the offending party, which I think would really make a guy like Lucic think twice before going below the belt again.
This is probably why I’ll never become sports commissioner.
–I liked Torey Krug’s response to Luke Glendening in the first period. Krug tried to lay a hipcheck on Glendening, and the rookie Detroit forward simply Hopped On Pop. Krug hated this and decided to just beat up Glendening in the corner. Any time a little fella gets big like that, you have to appreciate it.
–Krug also deserves a ton of credit for making an outstanding pass that led immediately to Milan Lucic’s goal. While Jarome Iginla will rightfully get much praise for his beautiful pass to Lucic, it was Krug who deftly looked off Glendening and Darren Helm near the Boston blue line. Krug carried the puck along the left boards and looked up the wall as if he was going to chip it through the neutral zone. As soon as Glendening and Helm committed to blocking that passing lane, Krug pivoted toward center ice and hit Lucic in stride on the tape as he headed toward the Detroit blue line.
It was a beautiful play, and if you ever need a visual explanation of what Peter Chiarelli means by “puck-moving defenseman,” just go ahead and watch that play.
—Speaking of beautiful passes, Pavel Datsyuk carried the puck into the zone in the second period and oh-so-casually lofted a backhand saucer pass about 45 feet from the right faceoff circle to the left one, nonchalantly hitting his teammate’s tape and setting up a scoring chance.
I wrote extensively after Game 1 that Datsyuk is a wizard. He did little in Game 2 to throw us off the scent.
–The hybrid icing rule was implemented to keep players safe on those dangerous collisions that used to happen beyond the goal line. Try telling that to Justin Abdelkader.
Abdelkader beat Johnny Boychuk by a hair to the faceoff dots, which negated the automatic icing call. Abdelkader’s reward? He got sent airborne by Mr. Boychuk, who casually collected the puck afterwards and carried on with his life.
–Contact sports are cool and fun:
–Gustav Nyquist has been almost invisible through two games of this series. That’s an indication that the Bruins are doing a good job as a team of keeping an eye on him, but it should also serve as a mini-warning sign that Nyquist could break free and pop a few on home ice. Watch out for him in Games 3 and 4.
–Another undesirable consequence of the Red Wings’ aggressive approach in Game 2? Well, their captain, who is trying to come back ahead of schedule from a back injury, is going to have to enter a now-brutal environment if he wants to help his team this round. Good luck with that.
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