It was obvious from the first puck drop on Saturday night, December 1, 2018, that the Detroit Red Wings were not going to go quietly into the shadows and play dead. While the last match up between them and the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden, back in October, saw the Bruins light the lamp eight times, it was clear that this time the Red Wings were going to make sure that didn’t happen again.
And while the Red Wings were working smarter and harder, it seemed that the Bruins struggles continued when it came to bounces and puck luck. Though ultimately, they had been able to get the win against the New York Islanders on Thursday with Ryan Donato’s shoot out goal in the fourth round, that game had not been the cleanest of their season, and many of their attempts on net just stubbornly refused to go in.
Saturday night, some of those puck bounces were still there, but it appeared that the team was struggling in other areas, which seemed to include communication and a lack of speed throughout much of the first two periods.
Almost none of the goals scored in the game were pretty. Many of them went in off deflections. Just as the first period was winding down, with 3.8 seconds remaining on the clock actually, David Backes was able to put the Bruins on the scoreboard first. Such a timely goal with just seconds to spare usually affects the other team as they come out in the next period. Such was not the case for the Bruins. The Red Wings continued to stymie them as Boston tried to gain entry into the offensive zone.
For their part, the Bruins were not doing a good job of managing the puck either in the defensive end or while on the offensive.
“There was some bad and some pushback and we got ourselves back in the game. And then we failed to manage the puck in the third, two veteran guys in the neutral zone on a simple breakout where we should’ve reversed the puck. It’s one of our go-to plays in our breakouts and whether it wasn’t communicated, or we didn’t see it. We lost some battles on the wall that hurt us in d-zone as well, but that’s going to happen. We’ve got some young wingers that are learning their way, but there was fire in the group. I don’t think we had a lot of luck around the net again tonight. I don’t know if whether this is now becoming a thing for us where we can’t finish around the net or it’s one of those cycles we’re going through. That can probably be debated both ways,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said.
The second period saw much of the same in regard to the handling of the puck for the Bruins, but things between the two teams were definitely getting chippier. With 4:52 remaining in the middle frame, Detroit’s Luke Witkowski laid a solid, and clean, hit on David Krecji in the neurtral zone. It was almost in the exact same place Krejci took a big hit (that caused him to lose a tooth) in Thursday’s game against the Islanders. Joakim Nordstrom took exception to the hit and decided to let Witkoswki know of his displeasure. It really wasn’t much of a fight, but with their tough guys all out with injuries, Nordstrom’s willingness to stand up for Krejci did set a new tenor to the game.
Approximately two minutes later, another couple of clean hits served to be the match that ignited a line brawling powder keg. Everyone grabbed a partner and even Tuukka Rask came out of his crease when he saw Jimmy Howard, Detroit’s net minder for the night, grabbing someone in a black and gold sweater. The donnybrook obviously woke up the Bruins. Boston ended up on the penalty kill when all the penalties were meted out, and Detroit capitalized on that power play, but the feistiness did do one thing—it woke up the Bruins.
“I thought it kind of woke us up a little bit. We dominated that third period. That was tough that they got a bounce to go their way. We had a few go against us, but Nordy [Joakim Nordstrom] did a phenomenal job stepping up there and kind of set the tempo. We went out after that, and it was a little more physical, but I thought it kind of woke us up in the third there,” Brad Marchand said.
The Bruins came out in the third looking like the team that usually takes to the ice. They were energetic, playing smart hockey, clogging up the neutral zone, and generally playing strong. Donato got the equalizer while the Bruins were on the power play.
A deflection by Frans Neilsen at 11:53 of the third, despite Boston’s being the stronger team up to that point in that period, seemed to affect the Bruins more than they would likely care to admit. And then Detroit put the final dagger in, when Gustav Nyquist put the puck in the empty net with 27 seconds remaining in regulation.
For the Bruins, it is back to the drawing board to see what they could do better. For Detroit, they celebrated their win—having lost the previous seven straight games played in Boston.
The Bruins will regroup and remind themselves that each man on the team has a role and all must pull their weight. They will have a short field trip to Florida in the coming week, where they will take on the Florida Panthers on Tuesday and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday before returning to TD Garden to host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.