Red Wings’ season ends with 4-2 loss at Boston
A long offseason begins early once again for the Detroit Red Wings.
After fighting to make the playoffs for the 23rd straight season, the Wings bowed out in five games to the Bruins with a 4-2 loss Saturday in Boston.
Really, there’s no shame in a team that squeaked into the playoffs losing to the team that won the Presidents Trophy.
But when you don’t feel like you played as well as you could have, then it stings a bit more.
"I thought our youth and our lack of experience really showed," Wings coach Mike Babcock told FOX Sports Detroit’s Matt Shepard on the postgame show. "Our penalty kill, which had been so good for us all year, it was not good in the playoffs. We took three too many men on the ice penalties, that kind of stuff.
"When you look at it, we counted on a lot of kids to get it done for us offensively all year long, and they were unable to do it at playoff time."
After goaltender Jimmy Howard blanked the Bruins in Game 1, they figured out how to counter the Wings’ speed, especially on the power play.
The Bruins had 14 goals to the Wings’ six in the series, and six of the Bruins’ goals came on the power play.
"Their power play seemed to move the puck around with great confidence," said Daniel Alfredsson, who returned to the Wings’ lineup after missing two games with a sore back. They did a great job finding openings.
"They changed it up well. Once we adjusted, they changed again."
As Babcock said, the Wings relied on the young kids to help them reach the playoffs and then those same kids had to learn the hard way that the postseason is a different beast than the regular season.
Most of these Bruins, on the other hand, played last year in the Stanley Cup Finals and several of them won the Cup in 2011.
"I think it’s experience and patience," Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "They really stick with their structure. They’ve been doing it for two, three years now and they know it works.
"We haven’t really gone through that with this group."
The Wings might have been able to give the Bruins more of a fight if their best veteran players had been healthier. Pavel Datsyuk played despite a knee injury that could require offseason surgery. Zetterberg came back for the last two games despite missing two months because of back surgery.
Although Zetterberg made an immediate impact, it was clear he wasn’t near his peak level.
"I felt good," Zetterberg said. "Obviously, I wish I could have had a little better impact than I did these two games. Obviously, it felt better today than it did in Game 4."
Defensively, the Wings really could have used veteran Jonathan Ericsson, who missed the entire series because of a broken finger and torn tendon in that finger.
"We can improve just by some guys getting healthy," Babcock said. "Mule (Johan Franzen) missed a ton of games. Datsyuk and Zetterberg, (Darren) Helm — all those guys — with good summers and any surgery they need, will be much better players because their health will be better.
"I think we can improve our back end with (Alexey) Marchenko and (Ryan) Sproul and (Mattias) Backman, this (Xavier) Ouellet kid here you saw tonight. I think our team can get better on the back. Obviously, we missed Ericsson. We’re not deep enough to do without him."
The Wings also missed Howard, who sat out the last two games of the series with the flu. Jonas Gustavsson was pressed into the first two NHL playoff games of his career.
In the long run, the experience will benefit young players like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Danny DeKeyser, Brendan Smith, Luke Glendening and Ouellet. Not only did the kids get to play in tough, high-pressure situations, they also got to see what a disciplined, veteran team like the Bruins plays like in the playoffs.
"The young guys got better and better the longer the season went, and really showed they belong up here," Gustavsson said. "I think there’s a lot of good things to build on. It’s a bright future for this club."