DETROIT – All you need to know about the Boston Bruins’ last win at storied Joe Louis Arena is that Phil Kessel, Marco Sturm, Chuck Kobasew and Petr Tenkrat were four of the five goal scorers for Boston in a decisive 6-3 win.
If that wasn’t enough, then how about long, lost Brandon Bochenski picking up a pair of assists in the big victory over the Detroit Red Wings?
If some of those names don’t sound all that familiar then that’s okay. If they make you cringe just a little then that’s perfectly okay too.
That victory for the Bruins over the Wings took place all the way back on March 11, 2007 at the tail end of a sad sack 2006-07 season for Boston more commonly known as the “Dave Lewis Error.” The telltale sign it was the Lewis-coached team: the Bruins were also called for a too many men on the ice penalty during the second period that signaled his calling card as an NHL head coach.
Patrice Bergeron was the other goal-scorer in that game, and Bergeron and Zdeno Chara marked the only two Bruins players that still remain on the Boston roster from that first season under new management with Peter Chiarelli. The bottom line as it pertains to the current playoff series: it’s been seven long years since the Bruins have actually won in Detroit despite all of their success over the last five years.
Some of the losses at “The Joe” have been downright ugly, and most of them betrayed a Bruins team that couldn’t hang with the Wings for many of those years. Clearly that part of the dynamic has changed in recent hockey times as the Wings are the hockey club eking their way into the playoffs, and the Bruins are now the perennial Stanley Cup contender full of talent and high expectations.
But the truth remains the Bruins have experienced nothing but difficulties in Detroit during the entire Claude Julien era in Boston, and have been outscored by a whopping 15-5 margin in four losses in the House that Gordie Howe Built. The closest they’ve come to a win was their final regular season game in Detroit this season when the Bruins held a lead for much of the game, but helplessly watched Gustav Nyquist blow by Chara when the game was on the line.
That’s a bit of a concern for the Black and Gold as they migrate to Motor City for a pair of playoff games this week in a series tied at 1-1 apiece between the Bruins and the Winged Wheels. But Mike Babcock will have last change in Detroit’s home building, and can continue to play some matchups that have worked in his favor for long stretches: Darren Helm has been goods locking things down on David Krejci, and Bergeron and Pavel Datsyuk seem to be cancelling each other out to some degree.
Bergeron has been a member of the Bruins throughout Boston’s recent failures in Detroit, but vowed he won’t be focused on past regular season history amidst a playoff series against the Wings. His eyes are on the prize at the end of the Stanley Cup journey, and the Bruins will need at least one win at Joe Louis Arena after dropping Game 1 on their home ice.
If the Bruins don’t do that then they’ll be going home, and it’s as simple as that for a top seed with grandiose hockey aims.
“It’s going to be difficult in Detroit, and we know they’re going to try and bounce back,” said Bergeron. “We need to match that. We shouldn’t be thinking about [struggles at Joe Louis Arena]. It’s about making sure we turn that around [on Tuesday].
“It’s going to be a tight series, and a tough series. We’re expecting them to bounce back. We can’t start thinking about the building that we’re playing in. Obviously it’s about bringing our game that we brought out for Game 2.”
Hockeytown should produce a lively crowd against an Original Six playoff opponent like the Bruins, and the octopus on the ice is up there with some of the best traditions in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But it’s less about atmosphere, and much more about the nuances of the building. Torey Krug will tell you that the ice plays faster at “The Joe”, and that can be a benefit for a hockey team boasting speed burners like Nyquist, Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco among others.
Loui Eriksson will tell you that the boards are much livelier at the Joe, and the Bruins players will need to get themselves acquainted with the funky bounces during Tuesday’s morning skate. The margin of error between the Bruins and Red Wings is small enough in the series that one errant bounce, or unexpected twist could be the difference between winning and losing.
“It’s different during the playoffs. We just have to approach it like we did in [Game 2],” said Eriksson. “We know the boards over there are kind of lively, so we’ll have a good pregame skate and get going there.”
Unfortunately the Red Wings have been livelier than the boards at “The Joe” when the Bruins come to town for as long as anybody on the Boston roster can remember. They will need to break that Motown spell once and for all if the Bruins are going to show Detroit who is boss in the Atlantic Division.