After securing the President’s Trophy on Saturday afternoon, the Boston Bruins learned that the Detroit Red Wings would be coming to town for the first round of the playoffs. Without question, the Red Wings represent a tough draw for Boston on a number of fronts.
In terms of the actual rosters, the Red Wings have a slightly more veteran team than the Bruins, led by Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Alfredsson, and Niklas Kronwall. Similar to Boston, Detroit has achieved success through balance, seamlessly blending young players with their core group. Since 2008, both teams have been to the Stanley Cup Finals twice, each winning one Stanley Cup in that span. Their strong play at both ends of the ice makes them a difficult matchup for any team, including the Bruins, who sit atop the NHL.
The Red Wings became division rivals for the Bruins this year, as re-alignment placed the two Original Six teams in the new Atlantic Division. Unfortunately for Boston, Detroit held a convincing edge in the season series. Since winning the first matchup of the season, the Bruins have dropped three straight against the Red Wings, including their worst loss of the season, a 6-1 defeat at the end of November. In total, Detroit outscored the Bruins 13-9 in the season series, despite being kept in check by Boston’s penalty kill (one PP goal in eight chances). The Bruins power play was able to convert three of its 16 power play chances (18.75% success rate), a decent rate of success, but not as impressive as their season average (21.05%). By way of comparison, the Bruins season averages for goals for per game (3.18) and goals against per game (2.16) were better than they were able to muster against the Red Wings (2.25gpg, 3.25gaa). Whether it was due to a superior level of play from Detroit or a lack of execution on Boston’s behalf, the Red Wings proved to be more than the Bruins could handle this season.
While the regular season series might not tell everything, it is not a stretch to say that the Bruins have struggled against Detroit in recent years. In fact, since the salary cap was put into place, the Bruins are just 3-8 against the Red Wings. More recently than that, since Claude Julien became the coach of the Boston Bruins, the Bruins are just 2-8 against Detroit, getting outscored 32-19. Aside from their win this season, you have to go back to 2008 to see the last time the Bruins defeated the Red Wings. Due to the fact that the Red Wings have been in the Western Conference since 1993, the two teams have not squared off recently in the postseason. The last playoff matchup between the two teams was all the way back in 1957, a series that saw the Bruins knockout the Red Wings in five games.
Bruins Playoff History
Although the Red Wings will be a difficult challenge for Boston, there is some good news for Bruins fans. First off, Detroit heads into the series without forward Henrik Zetterberg, one of the team’s top scorers on the season. Zetterberg led all Red Wings forwards with 32 assists, as well as leading the forward group in average time on ice, playing 21:33 per game. The Red Wings will also be without Jonathan Ericsson, one of their top defensemen in terms of time on ice, averaging more than 21 minutes per game.
With their playoff berth and seeding on the line, the Red Wings played their way into the playoffs with a 6-3-1 record in their last 10 games. They were passed by the Columbus Blue Jackets for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, drawing the Bruins in the first round. The Red Wings were the tenth best road team in the NHL this season, while posting the 19th best home record in the league. For the sake of comparison, the Bruins were the league’s fourth best road team and the NHL’s best home team. Home ice should be a major advantage for the Bruins, while Detroit will need to elevate their game to capitalize on their home ice.
So what do you think, is history on the Bruins side? Do you fear the Red Wings? Let me know what you think in the comments below or on twitter @kirkvance.