Bruins' strength, depth take hold late in Game 4

Bruins' strength, depth take hold late in Game 4
April 25, 2014, 10:00 am
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DETROIT – In the end, the Bruins are a better hockey club than the Detroit Red Wings, and have the lineup depth, size, strength and overriding playoff experience to take home the best-of-seven series versus their Original Six counterparts from Motown. It’s just a matter of going out and actually doing it against a well-coached Detroit team with some backbone that needs to be conquered.

Those Bruins’ traits finally began to reveal themselves in the third period after the Bruins found refuge during Hurricane Zetterberg that stormed the Joe Louis Arena in the first period, and the Bruins deployed their big power forwards to secure the 3-2 OT win for Boston. Boston won Game 4 because they are well built for the playoff battles, and they have players that know they’ll be coming up with pucks when it matters in big playoff games.  

People had been wondering when the KIL (Krejci, Iginla, Lucic) Line would start featuring those punishing, wearying extended shifts where they grind down opponents, and that started in an extra session when the B’s outshot the Wings by a 12-3 margin.

The Red Wings had nothing in the overtime, and the Bruins were pounding Jonas Gustavsson with wave after wave of offensive chances.

“We didn’t have much in the first period,” admitted Claude Julien. “I just told our guys to get back to our game. Puck management is a big part of our game. We’ve got some big guys that can hang onto the puck a little bit more than we did in the first period. We weren’t managing the puck very well and the play kept going back and forth, and that certainly goes in their favor.

“We like to play a more territorial game, get in the offensive zone and manage the puck to spend a little bit more time down there. Once we settled that down, we got our game on track. It wasn’t about the emotions or anything else other than getting back our game.”

It was also clearly about big, physical possession players like Lucic, Iginla and Carl Soderberg holding onto the puck in the offensive zone, and creating offense while fending off Detroit defenders with their sheer size and physical strength. Soderberg simply overpowered Brian Lashoff on a 50/50 puck battle behind the Red Wings net, and that allowed Lucic to slip the hold of Gustav Nyquist and blast a low, well-placed wrist shot past Gustavsson for the game-tying score in the third period.

Soderberg showed off his all-world skill by sliding the pass back to Lucic in front of the net, and proved those two are a difficult combo for any NHL defense to stop when they’re out on the ice together. Krejci, Iginla and Lucic had only two shots on net and three shot attempts through the first two periods, and were pretty much ineffective while being held down by the Pavel Datsyuk/Henrik Zetterberg line.

Clearly that changed for Boston when it mattered in the third period and overtime.  

“You want to get better as a series goes along, and we were able to do that as a line,” said Lucic. “It was good to get that one, and it was a really big goal for our team.”

Perhaps it was Zetterberg really slowing down in the third period and overtime after being asked 19:34 of ice time in his first game returning from back surgery, perhaps it was Lucic and Iginla finally imposing their will in a series where things had been quiet for them, or perhaps it was just Boston’s overall lineup depth simply wearing down the Red Wings group.

Whatever the case, it was the Bruins who were faster, better and stronger in the overtime when it mattered most after Tuukka Rask turned away a Justin Abdelkader breakaway five hole attempt right off the bat in OT.

“It felt like we had some good chances in OT. On that shift we had some really good zone time, and had a long possession in the zone,” said Iginla. “We put some pressure on ourselves to try to be better and produce some. I thought in the third Lucic and Krejci really started taking over, and it was fun playing with them. Then we got a good bounce in overtime.”

Amazingly Krejci, Lucic and Iginla exploded for seven shots on net in the third period and overtime against a gassed Detroit bunch, and had a whopping 12 overall generated shot attempts in that final 33 plus minutes of Game 4. That’s the KIL Line that was such a handful for other teams during the regular season, and the first real signs of them in a series where they’d been eerily quiet headed into the pivotal game in Detroit.

Now both Lucic and Iginla have goals in Game 4 to draw confidence from moving forward, and Boston’s top offensive line seems to have found the secret sauce needed to generate some offense after tough sledding in the first three games.

That’s great news for the Black and Gold, and slightly troubling news for a Red Wings group starting to fade out of picture.