Haggerty: Bruins starting to dominate Wings

Haggerty: Bruins starting to dominate Wings
April 23, 2014, 1:30 pm
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DETROIT – The Bruins went into Tuesday night’s Game 3 against Mike Babcock, Pavel Datsyuk and the Detroit Red Wings knowing how important that moment was in a best-of-seven playoff series. The third game in the series is when one team really seizes control of the proceedings, and it’s why Bruins coach Claude Julien called it “a game of will” prior to puck drop.

After the Bruins had placed the finishing touches on an airtight 3-0 shutout win over the Wings that featured intimidating, shutdown defense, superb goaltending at the right times from Tuukka Rask and an ability to pounce on gaffes by the Detroit club, it was pretty clear which team deserved the upper hand in the series.

Patrice Bergeron also freely admitted after his two-point effort that the Bruins put a great deal of emphasis onto winning Game 3. It’s why they pulled no punches on the ice, and it’s why they’re now an astounding 14-1 in Game 3’s during the Claude Julien tenure in Boston.

“I agree. It’s something that we definitely talked about before the game. It doesn’t mean that the next one [isn’t as important],” said Patrice Bergeron. “It’s always about that next game, but the third game was huge for us and we did the job.”

The numbers are as astounding for the Bruins as they are impotent for a Red Wings team that was missing two of their top four regular season scorers (Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik Zetterberg) for Tuesday night’s game at the Joe. Tuukka Rask has stopped 80-of-82 shots for a .976 save percentage in the playoff series, and made breathtaking stops on Justin Abdelkader and Pavel Datsyuk amid his 23 shutout saves in Game 3. Rask wasn’t even rattled when the Red Wings fans tossed an octopus at his skates as he was standing ready for action during the Star Spangled Banner prior to puck drop.

“I thought there was only one,” said Rask to a group of reporters in the postgame dressing room. “I thought there was only one octopus. Apparently there’s more than that. I just hope they don’t try to hit me.”

The Bruins have received goals from some unexpected places like Justin Florek, Jordan Caron and Dougie Hamilton while the Red Wings have managed just a single assist from the top six names on their regular season point list: Alfredsson, Gustav Nyquist, Niklas Kronwall, Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Tomas Tatar. Detroit’s young players have blinked a bit in their first playoff experience, and shown some of the novice jitters that can be common during the Stanley Cup tournament.

It’s been tough sledding for the Red Wings, and their coach knows it.

“Let’s be honest: they did a good job, they tracked hard and they pushed us outside,” said Babcock. “We had a guy at the net, but you need more than a guy at the net: you need a guy in the middle, and two guys coming in on the side. I didn’t think we had that.

“They were better than us all night long, but we gave them two goals. It was almost like the energy in the building, the excitement or whatever, we didn’t handle that good.”

In not handling it Detroit took a too many men on the ice penalty that led directly to Dougie Hamilton’s power play goal, and a dreadful line change that parted the seas for Jordan Caron’s rebound score. Once Boston had a two goal lead against a team that’s only been able to muster two goals in the series – and is a scattershot 0-for-9 on the power play through three games – it was all over.

The series isn’t quite in the “all over” stage quite yet, and there’s still the nagging feeling that Zetterberg will return for Detroit before it’s all over. There’s also a very good chance the Red Wings could deploy Todd Bertuzzi as a strong inside player willing to battle fiercely around the net like Johan Franzen isn’t right now.

But it’s starting to take on the feel of “men vs. boys” in the Bruins first round series against the Red Wings now that Boston has dusted themselves off from the super-virus that ripped through the team.

The Bruins are who we thought they were, and they’re starting to dominate Detroit just like they should.