As game four of the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings series nears, it will be important for the Bruins to continue to impose their will on Detroit. They need to continue to play like they did in games two and three, which is play physical. What exactly does play physical mean? Often times physicality is measured incorrectly as how many hits one team puts on another. While hitting is a part of physical play, it is just that, only a part. In reality, there are many other factors that go into the Bruins’ physical play that will be key in helping them win this series.
The Bruins are not a club known for their great team speed. In fact, on most nights they are at a disadvantage to their opponent in terms of team speed, and that is the case in this series against the Red Wings. With that in mind, it is imperative that throughout the rest of this series the Bruins get pucks deep into the offensive zone and hammer Detroit’s defensemen.
If Boston establishes their forecheck early in games, it will go a long way in wearing down the Red Wings skaters over the course of a game and ultimately over the course of a series. The forecheck is one aspect of the Bruins’ physicality where hitting probably has the biggest impact. Over the course of the regular season there were a number of instances where big hits early in games on the forecheck softened up Boston’s opponents and it led to turnovers later in games that the team could capitalize on. Boston’s physical forecheck was a big factor in their games two and three wins, and it will be a big factor in whether they win or lose this series.
Another major aspect of the physical style that the Bruins play is their net-front presence. This season the Bruins power-play has been leaps and bounds ahead of previous seasons and it is largely due to Zdeno Chara now playing down low. His ability to screen opposing goalies and use his long reach to corral loose rebounds has paid off big time for the Bruins and is the reason why they finished number three in the league on the power-play during the regular season. Despite not having Chara on the second power play unit, the Bruins second power play has also benefited from getting in front of the opposing goaltender.
It is not only on the power play that Boston must get bodies to the front of the net. All game they need to make a consistent effort to crash the net. It is not a secret that the Bruins do not have that one singular offensive player, like a Sidney Crosby or Pavel Datsyuk, that is a prolific scorer. Although the Bruins were in the top-3 in the league in goals per game, they did not have a player in the top-15 in goals scored. Lacking the luxury of having that one guy that can carry the offense on a consistent basis makes it that much more important for the Bruins to get to the dirty areas of the ice, like the front of the net, and look for rebounds and deflections.
Boston proved during the regular season they are the superior team and should be able to advance past the Red Wings, but that will only happen if they play to their identity. If they can continue to play physical in all aspects of the game they will win this series. In game one and parts of game two they got away from their style and it hurt them. They dropped the first game of the series and almost gave up a 2-0 lead in game two with a poor second period. The Bruins are very capable of losing three of the next four games if they get away from what made them this year’s President’s Trophy winners. Ultimately for the Bruins, if they want to unlock the door that advances them to the second round of the playoffs, physicality will be key.