Panic has eased back into quiet confidence. Fear has kicked anguish aside in the joyous face of rebirth.
Finally, perhaps for the first time all season long, the Boston Bruins had the Detroit Red Wings confused, out of their element, and flat-out overmatched Sunday, as Boston’s 4-1 victory in Game 2 of its playoff series against Detroit knotted the quarterfinal series at one win apiece.
The Bruins rose to the occasion in front of a packed house at the TD Garden, which included a Jesus lookalike, who also rose to…well, you know.
In direct contrast to Friday’s Game 1 loss, the Bruins were aggressive in the Red Wings’ zone from the get-go, peppering goalie Jimmy Howard with 18 shots in the first period, seven fewer than they managed all night in the opener. OK, so the opening tally wasn’t exactly going to make a skill contest reel anytime soon. Kudos to Justin Florek on the first goal of his postseason career, but when the goalie is that far out of the net, Jordan Caron is the only player on the roster who should be missing that shot.
Reilly Smith’s power play goal less than three minutes later was probably all the proof Red Wings coach Mike Babcock needed to understand this wasn’t going to go as well for Howard as Game 1. The Detroit goalie was literally surrounded by Bruins, including Smith who went back door while skating behind Howard for the 2-0 lead. In fact, Smith did everything from behind Howard except stick himself with a $5,000 fine. Milan Lucic (who also scored a second period goal that made it a 3-1 affair) had to be confused how he kept his guard.
“We don’t get too many power plays so it was good to be able to get them and be able to capitalize early,” Smith said.
“Getting pucks to the net was obviously a big factor, especially (after) last game not scoring a goal,” he said. “We’re not getting too many pucks to the net at the start and you have a five-on-three and you’re able to fire as many as you want. So that definitely changed the pace of the game and we benefited off of it.”
But most encouraging was that the Bruins made the Wings play their game on Sunday afternoon, and that turned out foreign for the squad built on youth, speed, and smarts, the latter of which unraveled in the midst of baiting physicality. The Bruins scored on two of four power plays, while the Red Wings looked atypical, called for four roughing plays on the day, which had Babcock scratching his head.
“We haven’t had four roughing calls all year,” he said.
It was as if the Bruins took the magic Pavel Datsyuk brought to the Garden Friday night and used it to hypnotize the Red Wings into playing a more aggressive style that fits the retaliatory nature of the Bruins to a superior degree. Ergo, how about Zdeno Chara’s amusement upon discovering Detroit defenseman Brendan Smith actually wanted to fight his 6-foot-9 counterpart.
“[Chara] wouldn’t be the first guy I’d choose in the NHL to go against,” Reilly Smith said. “[Brendan] should probably think twice next time.”
If Smith’s intent was to goad Chara into receiving a five-minute major, no such luck. In any case, the Boston defenseman’s reaction is priceless and telling; after one period, the Bruins knew they’d rebounded with their game plan and had the Wings on their heels. In the third period, he scored the Bruins’ final goal of the game, on a power play, from his usual position directly in front of the goalie. For Howard, it was the final insult on an afternoon that showed his weak links.
Or, were it his teammates’ weaknesses?
“I think we’ve got to stay out of the BS out there and just play whistle to whistle, and not worry about getting into the scrums or anything like that, and proving your manhood out there,” Howard said. “We just have to skate, play our hockey, don’t get into their motive and get into their scrap, playing real physical. We just have to get back to playing our game. We knew this was going to be a long series and they played a real solid game today.”
Not just solid; it was their game.
Maybe Friday night’s laissez-faire exhibition was little more than the remnants of the flu, reacquainting themselves with Babcock’s boys, or just the mere fact that Boston had to endure four days off in between games. Sunday was much different in that it was so familiar.
“I think that we played more of our game, and we kind of took the hesitation out of our game that I think was there in that first game,” Lucic said. “So, we talked about how important this game was ever since the loss. So, it was good to get a response here and get the series back to 1-1.”
Off to Detroit. If Sunday’s Bruins show up more consistently than Friday’s crew, it’s going to be a really short week.