Red Wings stun Bruins while Habs, Ducks take control
When the Dallas Stars completed their regular season on April 13 in Glendale, coach Lindy Ruff talked about the unanticipated challenges of preparing for the first round of the playoffs.
"The first series is always emotional and it’s always physical," said Ruff, who played 12 NHL seasons and 52 playoff games. "No matter what you did in the regular season, the slate is wiped clean, and you can’t think that anything you accomplished to that point matters."
Nobody knows that better than the Boston Bruins, who won the Presidents’ Trophy with the NHL’s best regular season record and then got shut out at home in their playoff opener on Friday by the final team to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
GAME OF THE DAY: Detroit 1, Boston 0. The Red Wings are up to their old tricks again. In 2013, Detroit upset Pacific Division champ Anaheim in the first round and nearly dumped eventual Stanley Cup champ Chicago before falling in overtime of Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. On Friday, they got a late goal from ageless wonder Pavel Datsyuk to put this season’s overwhelming favorite, Boston, in a 1-0 hole with a 1-0 victory.
PLAY OF THE DAY: Pavel Datsyuk’s brilliant goal. Watch the video. The play starts with a poor pass from teammate Johan Franzen that could have resulted in a costly turnover. Instead, Datsyuk, already at full speed in the neutral zone, reaches behind him with one hand on the stick and drags the puck through his legs and up to his forehand. When he reaches the Bruins’ zone, he eludes the long-armed poke check of defenseman Zdeno Chara, slides laterally across the high slot and uses teammate Justin Abdelkader as a screen to slip an across-the-grain shot past Tuukka Rask for his 37th career playoff goal. Ridiculous.
1. C Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim: A stitched-up facial laceration and no sleep after the birth of his daughter, Willa, could not deter the Ducks captain. He tied the game late in the first period and set up Andrew Cogliano’s game-winning, shorthanded goal in the third period in a 3-2 win over Dallas.
3. C Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit: Scored the only goal of the game with 3:01 remaining in a win at Boston.
Detroit 1, Boston 0
Key stat: The Bruins scored the third-most goals during the regular season (261) and had just two regulation losses in their last 23 games.
Key player: Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard stopped 25 shots to post his third career playoff shutout. Howard got enough of Milan Lucic’s redirect of David Krejci’s shot that it trickled just wide of the net seconds before Datsyuk’s game-winner.
What we learned: We already believed it, but this game further cemented that belief: Mike Babcock is the best coach in the NHL. Give the Detroit bench boss a little time to dissect an opponent and prepare his team, then watch out. For the second straight postseason, the Red Wings have a hockey heavyweight in trouble. Detroit’s game was basic: Possess the puck, make smart, simple plays, use its superior speed and wait for the Bruins to crack. That was a little tougher against defensively sound Boston and all-world goalie Tuukka Rask, who stoned forward Darren Helm with his right pad on what looked like a certain goal early in the third period. The Bruins were without two of their top four defensemen, Kevan Miller and Matt Bartkowski, and two forwards, Chris Kelly and Daniel Paille, because of injuries and illness, but depth wasn’t the issue. The Bruins just got outplayed, and Datsyuk made a play when it mattered most, putting the pressure squarely on the Bruins to respond while silencing the spoiled TD Garden crowd.
Next game: Sunday at Boston, 3 p.m., ET
Montreal 4, Tampa Bay 1
Key stat: Montreal is 49-5 all-time in best-of-seven series in which it takes a 2-0 series lead.
Key player: Left wing Rene Bourque, Montreal. Bourque had a frustrating regular season with just nine goals and seven assists. He’s erasing those memories quickly. Bourque had a pair of goals Friday. Both highlighted his speed.
What we learned: Tampa is out of answers. Sure, it would help if the Lightning had goalie Ben Bishop, a Vezina Trophy candidate whose play injects confidence into the team. But Tampa didn’t score on Friday until 1:59 remained and Montreal already had a 4-0 lead. Two days after a brilliant Game 1 performance, Tampa star Steven Stamkos was a minus-1 with four shots and three turnovers. Montreal returned to its suffocating defensive ways and the Lightning never could muster a net presence against goalie Carey Price, who looked like his regular-season self in turning aside 26 shots. The task is tough for Tampa now. Bishop is nowhere near returning to the ice, and Lightning rookie left wing Ondrej Palat did not play after leaving Game 1 with an upper-body injury. This could end up being the first round’s first sweep, with games 3 and 4 set for the Bell Centre. Only 37 teams in the previous 291 series (12.7 percent) have rallied from 2-0 deficit to win a series, and Tampa just lost the first two at home, making the odds much longer. But Montreal has lost a series three times after winning the first two on the road (1996 vs. New York Rangers, 2006 vs. Carolina and 2011 vs. Boston). Tampa knows how to do the deed, having lost the first two games at home in 2003 vs. Washington before rallying to win the series.
Next game: Sunday at Montreal, 7 p.m., ET
Anaheim 3, Dallas 2
Key stat: Ducks right wing Corey Perry snapped a 10-game playoff goal-scoring drought with a second-period goal. His last tally came on April 20, 2011, in Game 4 of the first round — almost three years to the day before this one.
Key player: C Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim: The MVP had two points to hand his team a commanding 2-0 series lead heading back to Dallas.
What we learned: The Stars are no more a threat to upset the Ducks than we originally thought. While Dallas was a sexy pick to win this series because people saw possession and special teams flaws with Anaheim, Dallas has those same flaws and not as much forward depth, making it an almost perfect first-round matchup for Anaheim. Anaheim’s best players are contributing in this series. Right wing Corey Perry had no goals vs. Detroit last year in the Ducks’ seven-game, first-round playoff loss, but he scored on Friday. Ducks rookie goalie Frederik Andersen has been solid, and he robbed Dallas defenseman Trevor Daley with five minutes left to preserve this win. Most importantly, Getzlaf is playing at the same elite level he was during the regular season. It’s certainly possible for the Stars to climb back in this series at home, where they were 23-11-7 this season. But the Ducks were the NHL’s second-best road team (25-12-4). We remain convinced that the Stars are no match and this will be the Western Conference’s shortest series.
Next game: Monday at Dallas, 9:30 p.m., EST
Final thought: On the day Chicago coach Joel Quenneville was fined $25,000 for, ahem, illegal touching, Boston’s Milan Lucic went a step further with this cheap shot on defenseman Danny DeKeyser that, if the NHL has any you-know-whats, will result in a steeper fine while Lucic has his man card revoked. Hockey is a rough game and hockey will always have its share of cheap shots, but can we all agree this has no place in the game? The same goes for the spear delivered by Anaheim forward Corey Perry to Dallas left wing Jamie Benn’s groin.