BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Bruins entered this series with the Detroit Red Wings as the better team on paper. And after a brief 60-minute delay to start the series, we’re really seeing the discrepancy play out on the ice.
The most recent illustration of this didn’t take long to show up in Game 3, when the Bruins hit the ice operating at a completely different speed than their opponents. The Red Wings were supposed to be charged up to play in front of their home fans for the first time this postseason, yet they instead looked overwhelmed and confused when the puck finally dropped in “Hockeytown” (more on that nickname later).
As a result, the Bruins staked themselves to a 2-0 first-period lead, and thanks to strong defensive play and a routinely solid effort from Tuukka Rask between the pipes, the Bruins once again looked like the best team in the NHL during their 3-0 victory.
It was an eventful night in Detroit, both on and off the ice, so let’s jump right into all of the leftover thoughts.
—We got to see Vintage Mike Babcock take the podium after the game. For my money, Babcock is my favorite coach in the NHL (Darryl Sutter, aka A Bill Murray Character In Real Life, is a close second) because he speaks so directly and flatly that he reminds me of Bill Belichick. Except instead of Belichick’s quiet monotone, Babcock delivers his messages with the typical Canadian hockey guy accent.
He’s a man who can both entertain and frighten me at the same time, a rare mix.
After Game 3, Babcock couldn’t explain why his team played so poorly out of the gate. He couldn’t quite put his finger on which emotion it was that caused his team to play poorly for the first 30 minutes of the game, saying the team was “nervous or excited or whatever.” He likely struggled to properly define which it was because he doesn’t feel normal human emotions like the rest of us.
He then ripped his team pretty fairly, ending his press conference by saying, “I thought we looked like kids tonight for sure. No question about it.”
–If anything, Babcock went easy on his team. The penalty kill unit’s “effort” to prevent Dougie Hamilton from waltzing from his own goal mouth into the Detroit end of the ice, where he casually scored the game’s first goal, was pathetic.
Here you see the Red Wings presumably having Hamilton bracketed pretty well in the neutral zone …
… only to all play “You got him!” defense at the blue line …
… and then snagging a front row seat to watch Hamilton fit a wrister under the crossbar.
That was bad. The only things missing were three buckets of popcorn for Darren Helm, Kyle Quincey and Joakim Andersson.
The collective brain fart that led to an awful line change, freeing up the entire sheet of ice for Shawn Thornton and setting up the second Boston goal, was even worse.
How that can happen in an NHL playoff game is almost unfathomable. Yet the Wings managed to make Hamilton look like Orr and allowed Jordan Caron, he of 12 goals in four NHL seasons, to score a goal. My hot take: That’s not a recipe for success in the NHL playoffs.
–Niklas Kronwall’s hit to stop Brad Marchand on a partial breakaway may have been 100 percent tripping, but it was just so masterful.
That was some Mortal Kombat stuff right there. I wouldn’t have called a penalty either.
–The Bruins’ hit of the night, unsurprisingly, came from Madman Kevan Miller. (Yes, I just made up that nickname. Yes, you should use it profusely. Yes, I’d like to collect royalties if it catches on. No, I don’t think it will.)
Miller caught Luke Glendening in the corner, and Glendening went flying as if he had stepped on one of those awesome launchers from MTV’s 1990s show “Sandblast.” You know, those things that sent people flying over a swimming pool into a giant mountain made from a gymnastics pad? Yeah, I know you know exactly what I’m talking about. That’s what Glendening stepped on.
–How bad were the Red Wings in the first period? Well, they got their first shot on net 1:14 in the game, a harmless wrister that would have gone wide if not for Tuukka Rask’s decision to reach for a glove save. The Red Wings didn’t get another shot on goal for 12 minutes and 36 seconds. They headed to the dressing room not only trailing 2-0 on the scoreboard but also with just four shots on net, one of which was a meek backhand from Gustav Nyquist that slid toward Rask at a scorching 3 mph.
It’s hard to win when you don’t score, and it’s hard to score when you don’t shoot. We saw in Game 3 just how dependent Detroit is on puck possession.
–Let’s address this “HOCKEYTOWN” situation. I have no problem with Detroit, or the Red Wings, or their fans. In fact, I like the Red Wings. How could you not, really?
But if you print “HOCKEYTOWN” across center ice, you better live up to the reputation. And on Tuesday night, the home fans did not.
It started when some jackwagon decided to hurl an octopus at Tuukka Rask during the national anthem. It missed him by a foot or two. Throw as many eight-pronged alien creatures onto the ice as you want, but don’t throw them at stationary players on the ice. That fan should have been escorted out of the building without getting to see even a second of that game, but I imagine he (or she) was not.
Later, when Brad Marchand needed the assistance of a trainer to skate off the ice after taking a shin-to-shin hit at full speed from Brendan Smith, the 20,000 fans in attendance were louder than they were all night, as they rained chants of “Bull [poop]” down onto the ice. First off, it wasn’t bull poop. It was a leg check, and it was tripping, and it was a two-minute penalty. But home fans in any arena are always going to disagree with calls that go against the home team, so that’s not an issue. The problem is chanting while a player is down on the ice.
I know Marchand has earned a reputation as one who’s embellished a few hits in his career, but he took a real hit there. Save the chants at least until he gets off the ice.
(I don’t know if Marchand was exaggerating his pain. I can’t know. You can’t know. I just know it probably hurts to crash to the ice after taking such a hit, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here, even if he hasn’t necessarily earned it.)
And lastly, perhaps the most damning mark against the fans in HOCKEYTOWN on this night, were the hundreds upon hundreds of empty seats in the arena with three minutes left in a two-goal game. It’s not as if the Bruins were up 4-zip and the game was over. This is playoff hockey, and much crazier things than a two-goal comeback in the final minutes take place with regularity out there. Yet the arena looked abandoned by the time Patrice Bergeron scored his 150-foot empty-net goal.
For shame, Hockeytown. For shame.
–Rask’s ridiculously agile move to stop Justin Abdelkader in the third period was obviously the save that stood out the most, but I felt Rask played a quietly great game. I wrote about it in detail here, but it’s worth noting his four playoff shutouts in 38 games has him on a pretty remarkable pace. At 27 years old, he’s already tied for 45th on the all-time list of playoff shutouts. With one more, he’ll move up to a tie for 23rd, and with two more, he’ll be tied for 18th. He’s averaging one shutout per every 9.5 playoff games played, which is better than Patrick Roy, who recorded one shutout for every 10.74 postseason games he played. Roy ranks second all time with 23 shutouts, one behind Martin Brodeur.
It’s obviously too early to assume Rask will end up with those two atop the list, but if Rask records one more shutout in, say, seven more playoff games this spring, he’ll be averaging a shutout per every nine playoff games. That’s a legendary pace.
–Yet I still don’t know why Rask decided to chop Pavel Datsyuk midway through the third period.
Rask also yapped at Nyquist after a whistle, so perhaps that flying octopus really got him angry for this game.
–The Red Wings are the only playoff team that has yet to score a power-play goal, as they’re now 0-for-9 with the man advantage. That’s as big a reason as any why the Bruins have the 2-1 series lead, and it makes the fact that the Bruins won the 2011 Cup with just an 11.4 percent successful power play all the more unbelievable.
The B’s power play this postseason, by the way, is tops in the NHL with a 37.5 percent success rate. They’re tied for the most power-play goals despite being tied for the second-fewest power-play opportunities. Impressive.
Special teams and goaltending were the two areas where the Bruins were presumed to hold a large advantage over Detroit in this series, and they are exactly why the Bruins lead 2-1.
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