While Sunday’s game 2 against the Detroit Red Wings was not technically a must win, the Boston Bruins did not want to find themselves in a 0-2 hole with the series heading to Detroit on Tuesday. The Bruins came out in game two and made it clear early that they would not allow as much room to the speedy Red Wings skaters, something that hurt them in their 1-0 loss in game one. Boston also made sure their physical presence was felt in game two, getting traffic in front of goalie Jimmy Howard and wearing down the Red Wings defense with a relentless forecheck. Overall the Bruins got back to playing “their brand of hockey” and it paid off on the scoreboard as they won 4-1.
Momentum in the game went in favor of the Bruins early thanks in large part to a bad turnover by Detroit’s netminder. The Red Wings tried to alleviate some of the pressure the Bruins were putting on in the neutral zone by dumping the puck back to their own zone to Howard. Howard and defenseman Brendan Smith were not on the same page however, and the pass went off Smith’s skate to a forechecking Justin Florek. With Howard badly out of position, just below the right faceoff circle, Florek wristed the puck past Howard for the 1-0 lead less than halfway through the first period.
The goal was Florek’s second career NHL goal, his first in the playoffs. “I mean, honestly, I thought I rushed it,” Florek said. “As soon as it hit my stick, I just turned and fired it on net, just trying to get it there before Howard could slide back was all I was thinking.” Scoring that early in the game after being shutout in the first contest was a huge confidence boost to Boston, and it did not take long for them to extend their lead to two.
After their 21-second 5-on-3 man advantage expired, the Bruins had 1:39 left of 5-on-4 play to try and score a special teams goal. With 1:22 left on the power play, Patrice Bergeron fired a wrist shot from the blue line into a sea of bodies in front of the Red Wings goal. Among those bodies were Bruins forwards Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith. After Eriksson tried hammering the puck home off of Bergeron’s rebound, Smith swooped in behind Howard in the crease where the puck had trickled and slid the puck into the back of the net.
All the momentum was clearly in favor of Boston heading into the second period with the 2-0 lead, but to their credit, the Red Wings did have a surge in them. The Bruins seemed to let off the gas in the second period, and Detroit started to find open space in the neutral zone. That open space helped the Red Wings to attack the Bruins defense with speed and eventually get their first goal of the game.
Two-minutes later, a tripping penalty to Dougie Hamilton put the Red Wings on the power play with a chance to tie the game. Boston’s penalty killers came up big however, keeping their team in front 2-1. Shortly after the penalty kill, Milan Lucic made a nice drop pass to Jarome Iginla at the top of the right faceoff circle, and Iginla passed it back to Lucic who had skated down the slot toward the Red Wings goal. Lucic’s powerful wrist shot had just enough mustard on it to trickle into the goal after Howard got a stick on it. With less than two-minutes left in the second period, Lucic had put the Bruins up by two once again.
The Bruins cashed in on a roughing penalty to Kyle Quincey early in the third period and took a 4-1 lead off of a rebound goal by Zdeno Chara. After the game Chara made it clear how important his team’s play on special teams was in the game. “It makes a big difference in the game when you score on your power plays and you’re able to kill the penalties,” Chara said.
After a disappointing loss in game one, the Bruins were able to get back to the things that made them the number one seed in this year’s playoffs. They were able to get pucks in deep and set up their forechecking game. That pressure translated into much more zone time for the Bruins in game two. Boston also did an excellent job of getting in front of Howard and capitalizing on the rebounds he gave up. They will need to continue to create traffic in front of Howard throughout this series and capitalize on their second-chance opportunities.
On the defensive side of the puck, Boston was able to clog the neutral zone and gave up very few clean entries into their zone. The Bruins ability to do that on a consistent basis will be one of the keys in this series because the Red Wings are very dangerous when they are able to create speed through the neutral zone and open up space in the offensive zone.
Game three is on Tuesday at 7:30 PM ET in Detroit at Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings were 18-13-10 at home in the regular season, while the Bruins were 23-12-6 on the road. Despite having a better road record than at home, Detroit is a very tough place to play, and it will be interesting to see how the Bruins’ young defensemen respond early. For the Bruins to go up 2-1 in the series they will need to do many of the same things in game three as they did in game two.