By Ashley Dunkak
JOE LOUIS ARENA (CBS DETROIT) – On home ice for the first time in these playoffs, the Detroit Red Wings looked uncomfortable and overmatched Tuesday. They struggled offensively and ultimately fell 3-0 to the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins, who now command a 2-1 lead in the series.
The evening started with a charged-up atmosphere as the video board blasted music and showed now-proven-wrong headlines and tweets predicting that Detroit’s playoff streak would come to an end. Highlights followed, and the intro culminated with a gigantic inflatable purple octopus suddenly unfurling from the big screen and descending onto the ice. The crowd loved it all, especially the national anthem by the organization’s own Karen Newman.
For whatever reason, the energy did not transfer to the Red Wings themselves.
After the game, Detroit head coach Mike Babcock seemed at a loss to explain why.
“We were off-kilter,” Babcock said. “I don’t know why we were rattled or nervous or excited or whatever. I’m a veteran coach. I’ve been around a long time … Maybe I should have known … I was excited to start on the road. I thought it’d be good for a young team to start on the road and we wouldn’t get all wound up. I had no idea that we’d start like we did tonight.
“We gave them two goals,” Babcock added. “I’m not trying to take anything away from them because they played well. They were better than us all night long, but we gave them two goals. It was almost like the energy in the building and the excitement or whatever, we didn’t handle that very good. We were off-kilter right from the get-go. We fumbled the puck around. I didn’t think we got going at all until maybe 32 minutes into the game.”
The Red Wings trailed 2-0 at the end of the first period. Especially through the first 30 minutes or so, Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard had to contend with far more pucks than his Boston counterpart Tuukka Rask, who faced 23 shots compared to 33 shots faced by Howard. The Red Wings got more opportunities near the Bruins’ net as the game continued but could never convert.
Detroit has now scored just two goals in three games against Boston this series – one in Game 1, one in Game 2 and zero in Game 3. After missing on three power play chances Tuesday night, the Red Wings are now 0-for-9 in the series.
“They trapped hard, they pushed us outside,” Babcock said. “I thought we had better entries on our power play and, it looked like, opportunities, but even then, I thought we were out on the outside on the power play too. We had a guy at the net, but you need more than a guy at the net. You need a guy in the middle or you need two guys coming in on the side. I didn’t think we had that.”
Like Babcock, Howard was taken aback by the way the team performed Tuesday against the Bruins, whom the Red Wings defeated three of the four times that the teams met in the regular season.
“I thought we were ready to go in here,” Howard said. “You could sense that like everyone was focused, and [it] just didn’t happen for us. I can’t really put any blame on anyone.”
Babcock, who did not speak to the team after the game, said Tuesday’s loss disappointed him more than when the Red Wings lost 4-1 in Game 2 in Boston. What upset him most was that Detroit played below its ability.
“I don’t think there’s ever anything wrong with losing when you maximized your group and did everything you could – that’s why that’s disappointing for me,” Babcock said. “We’ve been a way better team than that. That’s unacceptable. And that’s not taking anything away from the Bruins.”
The coach agreed that the team’s lack of experience might have played into the game.
“I thought we looked like kids tonight for sure,” Babcock said.
While moving on from such a sound beating will not be easy, veteran Niklas Kronwall said letting go of the loss is a must, easy or not.
“We have no option,” Kronwall said. “If we sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, we’re not going to go anywhere, so flush this one out, analyze what we can do better, which is a lot of things, and just get back to work.”