BOSTON – It would appear that the Olympic bromance between Claude Julien and Mike Babcock is over the eve of the first playoff series between the Bruins and Red Wings in 57 years. The two longest-tenured coaches in the NHL worked together and bonded as members of the Team Canada coaching staff in Sochi back in February, but game faces had been firmly set into place this week for both men.
Julien was asked about holding too much respect for the Wings headed into their playoff series and he mentioned the “underdog card” he thinks Detroit is playing given some of their injuries.
“I don’t believe in never respecting your opponent," Julien said. "They’re in the playoffs because they’re a good team, and that’s the respect that you give them. But that doesn’t mean you play on your heels or at the end of your stick because you have respect for them. It just means you have to be ready. I think it’s pretty obvious to us that they want to play the underdog card, which is not surprising. We just have to go out there and not care about what they say.
“We’re not letting them fool us with that underdog card and that they don’t have the players. We’ll just go out there and play our game. I know he’s got players, and he’s got players that have done extremely well for him. The guy that right now is a question mark for them is [Henrik] Zetterberg, but other than that those young players have done a good job even if the [Dan] Clearys and the [Todd] Bertuzzis are question marks in the lineup. They’ve got a pretty good lineup with a lot of choices. That’s how I look at it.”
Zetterberg has told the Red Wings media that they’re planning on his return for the second round, but it’s not out of the realm that he could be ready by the final few games of this series. Similarly, top-pairing defenseman Jonathan Ericsson could possibly return late in the series.
Bertuzzi and Cleary are both experienced forwards that would certainly be useful against a physical, bruising team such as the Bruins. Still, they don’t appear to be ready to start playing Friday.
Speedy Gustav Nyquist stepped up and scored 28 goals in the absence of Detroit’s more established “name” players, and their injury-marred roster managed to beat the Bruins in three out of four meetings this season. Pretty much all of the speedy, skilled youngsters are healthy and ready to go for the Wings. Pairing them with Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall and Jimmy Howard makes the Wings far from underdogs in Julien’s book.