"You can’t hit what you can’t catch" is pretty much the Red Wings’ mantra during their first-round playoff series against the Boston Bruins.
And the Wings’ speed and composure were the keys to their success in their 1-0 victory Friday night in Boston.
"That’s two teams that play a pretty solid system, and they stick to it," was how Bruins center Patrice Bergeron described the game. "There wasn’t much on both sides of the ice, and we’re going to have to expect that for the rest of the series."
All week leading up to Game 1, every Red Wings player stressed utilizing their speed against the Bruins. They believed that if they were fast to the puck and made quick decisions, the Bruins would be chasing them around the rink.
Even though the Bruins got some shots in Friday, registering 34 hits, they lamented the fact that they didn’t have the puck as much as they usually do during a game.
"We didn’t have the puck enough," Bruins coach Claude Julian said. "I think we didn’t play the puck as much as we normally do."
It was funny listening to the Bruins’ comments after the game.
This is the Wings’ first playoff series as a member of the Eastern Conference, and although they’re the epitome of a puck-possession team, it appears to be news to the Bruins.
Once again we have a team approaching the Wings as if they’re a collection of figure skaters — just lay some muscle on them and they’ll wilt — which has always been a recipe for disaster against the Red Wings.
When will the Wing’ opponents understand that they choose not to engage in extra-curricular activities, especially after the whistle?
In between whistles, the Wings are as tough as anybody. They’re relentless on the puck, and their keep-away philosophy frustrates the opposition.
Expect the Wings to continue to be aggressive during Game 2 on Sunday in Boston — fast and in possession of the puck — but also expect them to shy away from any of the Bruins’ tactics of intimidation.
"We want to play in between the whistles," Wings defenseman Brendan Smith said. "All that junk that happens after, there’s no point of it. We wanted to stay very disciplined in that sense and just play our game, and use our speed and take advantage of it.
"It was a good win for us. Obviously, they’re going to get way better. That’s just how it is. We have to up our game and be ready for them."
Smith’s teammates echoed his thoughts about the Wings needing to continue their creed of turning the other cheek. Not only is it their game, but it’s extremely effective against the Bruins.
"It’s very important," Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. "We’ve got to keep our head out there, keep our cool because they seem to thrive off of that. They like to get in those scrums after whistles, and we just got to remember whistle-to-whistle and just skate away."
Defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who was the target of several cheap shots from the Bruins, refuses to get drawn into Boston’s game of crossing the line.
"I think we need to just maintain playing our game and not get off our game by getting into stuff after the whistle and that kind of thing," DeKeyser said. "If we’re skating and making plays, that’s when we’re at our best, so we have to keep playing."
If the Wings continue to keep their composure, the Bruins will eventually realize what the Western Conference already knows: Toughness isn’t a physical attribute; it’s a mental one.