By Ashley Dunkak
JOE LOUIS ARENA (CBS DETROIT) – If anyone understands how difficult it is to resist the urge to retaliate against the tricky tactics of the Boston Bruins, it is 25-year-old Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith.
Upset at how the Bruins were playing in Game 2 on Sunday, with the Red Wings trailing by several goals, Smith engaged mammoth Zdeno Chara, who easily held him at arm’s length, laughing at the smaller player and taunting him, “Come on!” once Smith backed away after exchanging a few punches.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock gave a humorous take on the incident Monday.
“If you’re a really good speaker, then you should find employment speaking,” Babcock said. “If you’re a really good fighter, you should find employment fighting. So you walk into a bar and there’s this beautiful young gal standing next to this six-foot-five monster who you know makes his living fighting for a living, and you’re the best pool player in the bar, are you going to play pool? Or are you going to fight?
“Seems simple to me, I don’t know,” Babcock continued. “One guy’s 6-foot-9. One guy’s not. What would be the good decision? I guess all I’m saying is I think you should do what you do well – play pool.”
Babcock and Smith are now on the same page. Smith did not talk to reporters after Sunday’s game, but he spoke at length about it in the locker room following Monday’s morning skate.
“Sometimes you’re trying to back up some of your teammates, maybe even try to take care of yourself, in a sense, but like I said there’s no point in us doing that,” Smith said. “I probably should have backed out, but sometimes it’s just that heat of the moment, I told you, and that happens in playoff hockey.
“I’ll be honest – next time we’re just going to try to stay away from it because we want to play our game,” Smith added. “It’s a series to win. It’s not a UFC matchup. We’re not trying to fight each other. You’re not going to win the heavyweight battle by doing that. We’re going up there to put pucks in the net and win the series.”
Of course, avoiding those extracurricular elements of the game is sometimes easier said than done. While Red Wings superstar Pavel Datysuk has taken the usual aggravation from Bruins players with ease, Smith said the referees need to step up their game and curb Boston’s tactics.
“[Pavel’s] obviously a veteran guy, he’s been there, he’s done that, he’s taken stuff like that,” Smith said. “I think some of the refs have to maybe look out for him a little bit more. There’s a respect issue that I think that, there’s a code of conduct that if you go against it, refs have to jump in.”
More than anything, though, it is up to the Red Wings have to refrain from retaliating.
“We know how the Bruins play,” Smith said. “They want to be physical and create all those scrums, and something that we don’t need is all those roughing penalties. I don’t remember us having four roughing penalties this year, so that’s something that we’ve got to stay away from and make sure we’ll be effective in our style of game.
“In the end, we’ll play really well,” Smith added, “and we’ll win in the end.”
Babcock said earlier in the day that the win in Game 1 gave the team confidence it can defeat Boston. Smith displayed that confidence Monday, saying that if Detroit uses its speed, Boston will not be able to keep up.
“You see when we play our structure, we use our speed and we have that puck possession game, we’ve seen in previous games against them that it’s kind of a blowout,” Smith said, referencing Detroit’s three regular season wins over Boston. “I’m not saying these are going to be blowouts if we play that style. It’s just it’s going to be better for us because we’re going to have more possession of the puck and we’re going to wear them down in that sense.
“They want to wear us down in different ways,” Smith said. “If we use our skills to our advantage, then we’re going to wear them down in an even bigger sense.”
Of course, to be able to wear the Bruins down, the Red Wings need all available men on the ice, which means staying away from penalties, which means keeping cool heads even as Boston continues to try to instigate fights.
“We are better even strength,” Smith said. “We’ve proven that. That’s something that we’re going to have to stay out of the box. That’s what they want. They want us to engage in that stuff. If we stay out of it, we’re going to play really well and it’s going to be good for our squad.”