BOSTON – Claude Julien has already heard plenty about the speed and skill of the Detroit Red Wings as the playoff breakdowns and postseason previews continue to roll into Friday’s opener between Boston and Detroit. Pavel Datsyuk is clearly as dangerous as any existing player in the NHL when he’s healthy, and young guns like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tatar have already given Boston’s defense headaches this season.
But the Bruins bench boss won’t be giving any quarter to the Red Wings prior to the best-of-seven series, and sounded confident when asked about the matchup of strength (speed and skill) against strength (size, physicality and literal strength) in the upcoming playoff round.
“We’ve played some fast teams before. We can look at the record any way we want, and see us 1-3 [against the Red Wings this season],” said Julien. “I look at the games we’ve played against them, and there was one game in Detroit – the first one – that we didn’t play very well. The other two games we could have won.
“I don’t think [Detroit’s speed] is going to be an issue as much as we’re going to be an issue for them. Teams have strengths, and it’s about how you counter those things. This [Bruins] team can certainly skate. I don’t think we’re a slow team. I don’t know if people underrate our speed or not, but we can certainly close the gap quickly on those guys. That’s what you need to do. You don’t give any room to those guys became they’ll take it to make plays if it’s given to them.”
Clearly the Bruins wouldn’t be called a lumbering hockey team given the kind of success they had this season, but the B’s aren’t quite as speedy as they’ve been in past years. Last summer’s deal of Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to the Dallas Stars removed two of their fastest players from Boston’s lineup, and replaced them with average skaters in Reilly Smith, Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla.
That lack of overall speed has been noticeable in the Bruins going a lackluster 2-5-1 in games against the Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens this season, and it will need to be mitigated by Boston once the real season begins this weekend.