BOSTON -- The Bruins have often cited the Detroit Red Wings organization as the model for building an NHL franchise for sustained greatness in the regular season, and – more importantly – in the playoffs. The Wings are constant participants in the Stanley Cup playoffs while boasting the same, familiar lineup year after year with guys like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen in Red and White.
The Bruins have figured out a method that works for them based on discipline, defense, and toughness that are also some of the hallmarks of the Wings, even if they’re a bit understated given Detroit’s big reputation as a puck possession team.
Clearly the respectful feeling is mutual, though, based on the pregame comments of Wings coach Mike Babcock about scouting the Bruins:
“As a coach for a pre-scout on Boston, it takes about six minutes. I think it would take the same for somebody watching Detroit because they’re not trying to trick you. They’re just going to do it right over, and over, and over again,” said Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. “You just see the same thing over and over again. The reason they’re successful is because they’re organized and they’ve got really good people in good spots. They’ve got good depth in their lineup and they’ve got good players, but they also do it right.”
While that’s a little too respectful and friendly for teams that are now divisional rivals, that should probably start to change as quickly as Saturday night when the Bruins and Wings face off for the first time as divisional foes since 1973 – or since before every member of the Bruins roster was born.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRE PUMPED: Loui Eriksson had a couple of shots on goal in 17:30 of ice time against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, but still looks like he isn’t fully in synch with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. The three forwards are spending a lot of time out of position going up and down the ice, and some of that is because the Dallas Stars stressed the “overload” to one side when entering the offensive zone. Some of it is also because Eriksson is playing the “off” wing as a lefty on the right side. There were flashes of brilliance in the first game where the puck movement and creativity was there, but it wasn’t consistently present throughout the game.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “We’re going to have to have really good puck movement; do it quickly so that we don’t give them a chance to get into those good situations and at the same time we’re going to have to be winning the chip pucks and chase it and get into some battles here.” –Bruins coach Claude Julien talking strategy prior to Saturday night’s game.
KEY MATCHUP: As always with the Red Wings, it will come down to winning battles against the physical Detroit forwards directly in front of the net. Guys like Johan Franzen, Justin Abdelkader and Todd Bertuzzi won’t be afraid to camp themselves in front of the net, and screen Tuukka Rask while trying to get loose pucks around the cage. In fact Mike Babcock mentioned how important getting involved against big, strong B’s defenseman like Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk will be. So that’s a key to watch for a Wings team that’s managed to go 2-0-0 through their first two tilts.
STAT TO WATCH: 40 – the number of years since the Bruins and Detroit Red Wings were opponents in the same division going back to East Division in 1972-73.
INJURIES: Carl Soderberg (sprained ankle) is on the injured reserve, and has been ruled out for Thursday night’s opener after catching a rut on the ice in Saskatoon. Bobby Robins (knee) is on the injured reserve after hurting himself in the second exhibition game of the season. Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome) is on the long term injured reserve, and is again expected to miss the entire season.
Patrick Eaves (knee/ankle), Jonas Gustavsson (groin), Darren Helm (groin), Jordin Tootoo (shoulder) are all out for the Detroit Red Wings.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask became the highest paid goaltender in the NHL after signing an eight year deal this summer that will pay him $7 million per season, so he’ll be looking to continue his role after stopping all but one shot Thursday night against Tampa Bay. Rask’s 15 saves in the first period really helped Boston win a game where they were far from their best. Jimmy Howard will be making his third straight start for the Red Wings to open the season, and has posted a 1.46 GAA after helping the Wings pull out an OT game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night.