This is where we say it’s over, right? After what we witnessed Tuesday night in Detroit, can we all agree that there’s no way the Red Wings are coming back from a 2-1 series deficit?
That’s a foolish premise in a quarterfinal round that has only just reached adolescence. After all, the Bruins last held a 2-1 playoff lead against the Chicago Blackhawks in last year’s Stanley Cup final. They had a 2-1 series lead on the Washington Capitals in 2012. In 2010, the Philadelphia Flyers stormed back and erased Boston’s 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
How is this year any different?
Still, if there’s one thing you and I both know about where this series is headed, it’s this:
Barring any catastrophic injury to one of their core players, the Bruins will eventually be moving along to face the Montreal Canadiens, who finished off their sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday, in the next round of the 2014 NHL Playoffs. Let’s just chalk up Friday’s haphazard 1-0 loss to Detroit in the opener to both teams having not played in five days. Both teams looked sluggish from the get-go, the Bruins perhaps moreso with the infliction of Influenza 2014 wreaking havoc in the bowels (no pun intended) of TD Garden. Since then, this Bruins-Red Wings showdown has proven to be more about intimidation, shutdown defense, and spreading scoring depth to levels no prognosticator saw coming. Justin Florek and, um…Jordan Caron, anyone?
Since the end of Game 1, the Bruins have gone on to outscore the Red Wings, 7-1, including Tuesday night’s 3-0 shutout, which featured an opening period during which Detroit managed a mere quartet of shots on Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. The Bruins goalie is now 2-1 this postseason, with a .976 save percentage, stopping 80 of 82 Detroit shots, with a 0.67 GAA. Tuesday was his first shutout of the postseason. It very well could have easily been his third.
“When Tuukka sees it, he’ll stop it,” Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard succinctly said after he allowed two goals on 31 shots Tuesday. That might be a problem moving forward for the Red Wings.
“Obviously it starts with Tuukka,” Dougie Hamilton said. “It’s pretty easy for us to play in front of him when he’s pretty much going to stop every puck. I think that kind of deflates them, as well. They want to look for better chances instead of just getting pucks on net or whatever they’re thinking. Our forwards are helping the D out, so it’s a whole team defensive effort.”
Game 3 was over before it really even got started, more in tune with Sunday’s Game 2, and in direct contrast to Friday’s Game 1. The Bruins got an early power play goal from Hamilton, who might as well have been covered by the ghosts of past Red Wings glory seeing how open the defenseman was, and Caron, who has played the role of fan beating-boy all season long, to take a 2-0 lead that already seemed insurmountable the way the Bruins dominated the first period.
“Yeah, I actually looked at the ref to make sure that one went in before I celebrated,” Caron said.
Right, like he was the only one.
Caron, the 2009 first-round draft pick, is playing the Tomas Kaberle role in these playoffs, since there always has to be a whipping boy, even on a team favored to win the Stanley Cup. But the fact is, Caron’s goal is only the latest example of the Bruins’ much-ballyhooed depth. Boston has scored seven times against the Red Wings. Seven different players (Caron, Florek, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Reilly Smith, Hamilton, Milan Lucic) have done the damage. Caron and Florek have both already matched their regular season goal-scoring outputs. Each with one goal has already matched Tyler Seguin’s scoresheet from a year ago.
“It speaks a lot about our depth,” Bergeron said, “but also the character [Caron’s] shown all year to stay with it and keep getting better, working hard in practices. He got his chance and now he’s taking it, playing well and he scored a big goal for us.”
See, Chris Kelly can take all the time he needs.
Well, maybe. John Niyo of the Detroit News termed Caron’s goal an “embarrassment” since it came on the heels of the Wings butchering a line change. Que sera, Jordan.
“We’ve been a way better team than that, that’s unacceptable,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “And that’s not taking anything away from the Bruins. I thought we looked like kids, for sure.”
That exposition is a big part of the Bruins’ doings, keeping the young Red Wings on their heels with an intimidation factor for which Claude Julien won’t apologize. Babcock knew he couldn’t let his players get sucked in by the Bruins the way they did in Game 2. In Game 3, there was even less time to control the bullying, with the Red Wings in an early hole and their coach in a seeming identity crisis.
“I’m a veteran coach,” Babcock said. “I had no idea we would start like we did tonight. If you look at the coaching staff, we didn’t settle them down enough.”
There’s always Game 4, but might as well forget it.
It very well could be all over. That was evident in a game in which the home team was booed off the octopi-free ice.
“You can’t blame anybody for not being happy with how we played,” said Niklas Kronwall, who took responsibility for the Wings’ Keystone Kops line change. “We’re not happy ourselves with how we started the game. They have an expectation for us. And we have an expectation for ourselves. They deserved better . They definitely deserved better from me.”
Maybe they’ll get it Thursday night. Detroit fans should also just expect it to be the final game of the season in Motown.