By Ashley Dunkak
JOE LOUIS ARENA (CBS DETROIT) – Through the first two games of their series against the Boston Bruins, the Detroit Red Wings have failed to convert on any of their six power play opportunities. For Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, this area is where the team most needs to focus.
“You shouldn’t give up free access to your blue line, and when they put it in, you should be all over them,” Babcock said. “The big thing that can solve the problem, though, you don’t even break out, just win the faceoff, get shooting and getting it back, so that would be the first thing. The second thing is, we’ve obviously got to have a better plan and execution on power play. We’ve gone through to nausea, as you can imagine. The biggest thing for us is we’ve got to execute.
“Our first power play breakout, we came out, no pressure, we passed it to the boards, and then you start getting rattled,” Babcock continued. “Forget all that. Let’s get some swagger back, let’s get going, let’s enter, and let’s attack.”
The Red Wings won the first game of the series, 1-0, and the Bruins dominated the second game, 4-1. Tuesday the series comes to Detroit for two games, and the Red Wings have more than just the power play to shore up in order to give Boston their best shot.
Detroit has also been marginal in the penalty kill, an area Babcock said could be stronger Tuesday because Joakim Andersson will be in the game in place of Daniel Alfredsson.
“Andersson could really help our penalty kill,” Babcock said. “We thought our penalty kill was average. We thought our special teams were average last game. Andersson can help our penalty kill. He’s a good faceoff guy, he’s a big body, knows how to play.”
The obvious way to avoid allowing Boston’s power play unit to go to work is to stay out of the penalty box, which the Red Wings could not do Sunday. Brendan Smith, who got tangled up with the giant Zdeno Chara in Game 2, said limiting penalties will be key for Detroit, though he expects the Bruins will do all they can to get the Red Wings involved in skirmishes.
“We are better even strength,” Smith said Monday. “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.”
Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien contests the popular narrative the Bruins will only prevail in a physical game while the Red Wings will have the upper hand in a game characterized by speed and skill. Julien made it clear he believes his team can best the Red Wings in either kind of matchup.
“That first game could have gone either way,” Julien said Tuesday. “I don’t think that there wasn’t any physicality in the first game. Second game there was more, but the few scrums there was, if you look at the replay, I don’t think we started those. We just have to go out there and play our game. I’d like to consider us a pretty good skating team too. We didn’t score that many goals and didn’t allow that amount of goals because we weren’t able to skate. Tonight is just a game of will, whoever’s going to have the will to play their game the best. That’s all we have to think about is going out there.
“It certainly has nothing to do with what I think has been out there lately,” Julien added. “We’re big, we’re physical, that’s the way we built our team. We shouldn’t apologize for it because the Bruins fans and the city of Boston love us for that.”
There were several notable instances of Boston’s penchant for extracurricular activity during Game 2. In one instance, Milan Lucic speared Danny DeKeyser with his stick in a calculated blow below the belt, an action for which the NHL fined Lucic $5,000. The other after-the-whistle moment that made national news was an altercation between Chara and the much smaller Smith, who swung angrily at Chara while the 6-feet-9-inch defenseman held Smith at bay with one hand and laughed.
Smith allowed Monday that he probably should not have engaged Chara, and the rest of the Red Wings agree that they need to stay away from fighting to have a chance against the Bruins. Even fighting to defend oneself or a teammate is not be warranted now, Justin Abdelkader said Tuesday..
“I don’t think this time of year there’s anything that needs to be done, fighting-wise, to prove any kind of point for standing up for yourself or your teammates,” Abdelkader said. “You’ve just got to skate away, especially playing in Boston. That’s kind of what riles them up, the team and the fans. Especially got to be cautious in their building, but even at home, we don’t need to get involved. Play between the whistles, play hard, go to the net, but then after that you can skate away. There’s nothing that really needs to be said after, extracurricular stuff, there’s nothing else that needs to be done.”