As Game Four of the Stanley Cup Eastern Quarterfinals began between the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings, much had been said by both sides about bringing their game and about forcing the other team to play their way. This is to be expected—given that there is a lot of men and some chest thumping. However, once the puck drops, the reality of the game speaks louder than any words said previously or post game.
It should not have been a surprise to see a much more physical play from the Red Wings. The roster for the game spoke to that being a facet of their approach with the inclusion of Todd Bertuzzi. While Bertuzzi did manage nine goals and seven assists this season for 16 points in the 59 games he played, he also had a total of 40 PIM on the regular season, and his career regular season PIM is an impressive four-digit 1,478 in 1,159 games.
The Bruins hadn’t played their style of game in Game One, but they brought it in Game Two on home ice, to the delight of their fans. It was expected that the tide would change when the teams were in Joe Lewis Arena with the octopi flying (and nearly missing Tuukka Rask’s head during the singing of the national anthem). However, the Wings’ fans were greatly disappointed as Rask shut their team out in their own barn–many fleeing before the final buzzer. Perhaps it was his way of responding to the near miss by the octopus.
The Bruins had been suffering from the flu—second time this season—and it was mentioned that as the game began on Thursday that the Red Wings were now having issues with it. Perhaps Boston thought the Wings would come out a little slow because of it. Such was not the case.
Just four seconds after AHL call-up Justin Florek, and alum of Northern Michigan University, was sent to the box on a double minor high stick on Drew Miller, Niklas Kronwall’s slapshot, assisted by Pavel Datsyuk, went right into the net. The Wings fans went crazy. The Bruins were able to kill off the second two minutes of Florek’s double. And as the first period horn sounded, the Bruins were only down by the one goal though it was clear that they had relied heavily on their Vezina Trophy-nominated goalie Rask, as the Wings had gotten 15 shots on goal in that period while the Bruins had an anemic 5 shots on Jonas Gustavsson—who was in net for the Wings since Jimmy Howard was out with the flu.
As the second period got under way, not even five minutes in the Red Wings were up 2-0 with a goal by Datsyuk assisted Kronwall and Justin Abdelkader. It was beginning to look like the Datsyuk and Kronwall show, but worse, throughout the regular season the Bruins had only come back once from a two-goal deficit, so the statistics were against the Bruins.
Of course, regular season statistics don’t matter in the playoffs and with just two seconds left on the power play from an interference call on Bertuzzi against Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug returned the slapshot favor, assisted by Patrice Bergeron, to put the Bruins on the board and cut the Wings’ lead in half. At the end of the second period, the Boston Bruins had definitely wrestled control from the Wings and it showed in the period’s shots on goal, which favored Boston 12-7.
Many times after a game, coaches are asked what they told their team during intermission to rally the troops. And many times, if it is a hockey coach, he will explain that he didn’t have to say much, that the players rally themselves as the leaders of the team spell it out. And if you have watched any of the episodes of Behind the B this season, you have seen a number of the Bruins step into this role in the room.
Whatever was said brought the Bruins out with a mission, and Milan Lucic tied the game just 1:15 into the third period with a wrist shot assisted by Carl Soderberg and Dougie Hamilton. Soderberg would later be described; by Bruins head coach Claude Julien, as one of the best players in the game Thursday night.
For the next 18 minutes and 45 seconds those at Joe Lewis Arena along with those glued to their television sets would either be cheering or holding their breath depending on which team they were rooting for and whether they were in front of Rask or Gustavsson. And at the end of the period the shots on goal had been relatively even at 12-11 favoring Detroit.
This game would not be settled in regulation and after a 15-minute intermission—for the players to rehydrate and refuel, and for the fans to recover somewhat—the teams would be back at it. Play would zoom north and south again, though it was clear that Boston was getting the better chances during overtime. However, fans would have to continue to hyperventilate and tweet their disagreements with the refs through 13:32 of the overtime period before Jarome Iginla would tip in a shot from Dougie Hamilton who received the pass from David Krejci.
Clearly it was not the end to the game that the majority of the fans at the arena in Detroit wanted. And the life and energy from the fans evaporated faster than the flashing of the red goal lights behind Gustavsson.
However, for his first ever playoff start, Gustavsson had been a strong contender between the pipes, blocking 35 of the 37 shots he saw. And had Rask not stood on his head for the Bruins, the game would not have had a favorable outcome from Boston. Brad Marchand especially struggled in this particular game—missing a wide open net twice.
The battling for the series returns to TD Garden in Boston, where the teams will meet on Saturday, April 26 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. The game will air on NBC. And you can bet that the Red Wings will bring everything they have as they are facing elimination as the series stands at 3-1 in favor of the Bruins.