Photo: NHL Bruins
The regular season came, saw and ultimately conquered for the Boston Bruins– sealing not only the east, but the entire league with 117 points. Despite looking to carry over their extreme regular season success, playoff hockey is of an entirely different realm. When the cup is involved, the quest is that much harder, and every team pushes themselves further than anyone thought imaginable. The Bruins looked to do just that when they faced off against the Detroit Red Wings for Game 1. With home ice advantage on their side, they looked to effectively shut down the Red Wings in a power move for the first game of the series.
In the first game of the series, it became a test of the newer defensemen within the black and gold system. A staple on the blueline since initially being placed in the lineup, Bartkowski was a scratch presumably suffering the same flu bug that has swept through the locker room all week. Bartkowski’s absence placed Michigan native Potter in his second game since being acquired at the trade deadline. The opportunity to shine was an unexpected one, for Potter, who has spent a majority of the season viewing the game from the scratch list.
“No, I just came to the rink today and found out, and was excited all day,” said Potter. “I’ve just been waiting for this opportunity for a long time to get into a playoff game, and I’m thankful it came.”
While statistically the lack in veteran defensive may have been a worry, the d-men held off a powerful Detroit offense through the first 20 minutes. Offensively speaking, the Bruins exhibited both strength and speed through the opening period — so did Jimmy Howard. The Red Wings goaltender held strong, stopping all 9 shots faced. Opportunity weighed heavily in Boston’s favor, but they were unable to connect with the back of the net.
The second period began with maximum pressure from the Red Wings, and a sluggish four Boston lines. The game remained scoreless after 40 minutes of play, it also remained disciplined.
The third rolled in filled with frustration as the Bruins just couldn’t capitalize, mainly with thanks to Howard playing his A game. In a frustrating turn of events, it was Red Wings Datsyuk that found a way past Bruins Rask to lead his team to a 1-0 victory at 16:59 from Franzen.
“We know that Boston, they’re a good team and they’re a tough team we know what we waiting from them and we wanted to play a fast game,” said Datsyuk.
The game itself was an equalizer of sorts, with similar disciplined styles of play — at many points they were almost mirroring each other. Did Boston play their game? To an extent, but improvement is always at the forefront. Tallying only three penalties between both teams through the entire 60 minutes, stylistically, it was old time aggressive hockey, while managing to stay out of the box. Perhaps that trend will continu, but the introductory game is over and some things need to change.
“Well, I think the one issue for tonight is we didn’t have the puck enough, and when we had it, we got to start putting pucks in the areas where we can get them back, and we got to get pucks in areas where once we get it, we can hang on to it,” said Head Coach Julien. “And tonight, I thought we didn’t play with the puck as much as we normally do but the one thing about our team tonight — I thought we got better and better as the periods went on. So the third period was obviously our best period, but we started playing more of our game in the third period than in the first two. So we got to kind of make those adjustments here and hopefully have three periods more like the third period was and capitalize on the chances that we had.”
A frustrating outcome for Boston was still marked with positive aspects. Young defenseman Justin Florek made his NHL Playoff debut, surprising viewers with his solid play.
“Yeah, I didn’t really know what to expect coming into it but it was everything and better,” said Florek. “I think it’s going to be a great series here going forward.”
Despite spending time throughout the season with the parent club, the transition into the lineup is often a difficult one. But the camaraderie and welcoming attitude will always be sentiments that fill the locker room.
“Like I said before, it’s a great group of guys and they’re welcoming from day one coming in here, which is awesome,” said Florek. “But building confidence is great, every chance I get here just building confidence throughout those first couple of games of the regular season was important. They were giving me chance on the penalty kill and things like that and that built confidence for me coming here today.”
While the loss puts Boston down a game in the series, best of 7 means there’s still quite a bit of hockey to be played. The teams will reconvene on Easter Sunday for a 3 pm re-match, for fans of the Bruins — hopefully the outcome will yield a different result before home territory belongs to Detroit for Games 3 and 4.