Commentary

Bruins look unstoppable in win

Boston's stingy defense leaves young Detroit squad at a loss

Updated: April 23, 2014, 12:39 AM ET
By Craig Custance | ESPN The Magazine

DETROIT -- This was the game in which the Boston Bruins established their dominance. If you watched only the first period of Boston's 3-0 win over Detroit on Tuesday night, you'd have a hard time imagining the Bruins losing another game in this postseason. They came out flying, got pucks deep and kept them there with relentless physical pressure, overwhelming the Red Wings and immediately taking the crowd out of it. The Joe Louis Arena crowd so disgusted that boos filled the building as the first period ended.

The other two periods weren't so bad for the Bruins, either, with Tuukka Rask earning his fourth career playoff shutout.

Instead of the home team coming out charging in the first home game of its 23rd consecutive playoff appearance, it was the visiting Bruins who dominated a Red Wings team whose youth is showing.

Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton scored his first career playoff goal in the opening period, skating nearly untouched from his own zone to the right circle before snapping a shot past Jimmy Howard. Jordan Caron capitalized on a poorly executed line change that left the ice wide open for him and Shawn Thornton, who set up the goal.

Two first-period goals were more than enough. It's as many as the Red Wings have scored all series.

"We give them two goals -- any way you look at it, we gave them two goals," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said after the game. "Now, 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."

When you can hardly manage 20 shots in a game, let alone goals, giving away two can't happen. But if they didn't score on those, the Bruins had other opportunities. With the score close, Boston controlled 63.6 percent of the shot attempts, a dominant possession performance from a team that's been doing it all season.

[+] EnlargeDougie Hamilton
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesDougie Hamilton scored his first career playoff goal, skating nearly untouched from his own zone to the right circle before snapping a shot past Jimmy Howard.

Now it's happening in the playoffs, too.

It took a scare last year in the first round for the Bruins to find their game en route to the Stanley Cup finals; another scare doesn't look necessary this time around. They're playing their game right now.

"I'm not really trying to compare previous playoffs with this season. It's still early," captain Zdeno Chara said. "We always try to focus and take pride in our defensive game. We take a lot of pride in the defensive game."


While some teams feed off a pretty pass or an impressive goal, this is a group that feeds off defense. Like killing a 5-on-3 during the second period when the Red Wings were starting to overcome the Bruins' dominating start. Or killing a third-period delay of game penalty in Detroit's last real opportunity to get back in the game. One stop after another and the defensive confidence snowballs. On the other side of the ice, the confidence is zapped.

The Bruins' stingy defense can do that to a team, especially on the PK.

"It's important. As much as a goal," said Patrice Bergeron, who assisted on the game winner and scored an empty net goal to seal it. "Defending and doing the right thing, sometimes it gives you the momentum you need. I thought we did that -- even the 5-on-3 -- but also that huge kill at the end."

The Boston penalty kill remains perfect in this series through three games. Detroit's is at the bottom of the playoffs list at 62.5 percent.

Already missing Henrik Zetterberg and Jonathan Ericsson, Detroit sat veteran Daniel Alfredsson, who has been dealing with a back injury all season.

The veterans who are playing aren't playing particularly well, so it might be on the young kids, who got them in the playoffs, to get them back in this series.

Pavel Datsyuk is still a force, but when playing hurt, even a magician like him makes mistakes sometimes -- such as when he turned the puck over early on in the game in a rare error that set up a Bruins scoring chance.

Johan Franzen, who has carried the Red Wings for stretches in previous postseasons, was bumped off the Datsyuk line and was a nonfactor. David Legwand, who the Red Wings paid a healthy price for at the trade deadline, didn't manage a shot. He's got three all series.

"Let's be honest, [Boston] did a good job, they tracked hard, they pushed us outside," Babcock said.

Perhaps the Red Wings' younger players didn't grasp the urgency of the situation. The Bruins have a history of winning Game 3s, and it was a point of emphasis for them before this game. Boston is a one-game-at-a-time group, but this one especially was one they wanted. The way they did it tilted this series.

"That doesn't mean the next one is not [important], it's always about the next one," Bergeron said. "We said the third game was huge for us."

They played like it. This is what the Bruins look like when they're dominating in the postseason. They're skating, they're physical, quality scoring chances for the opposition are few and far between.

That it's happening so soon in this postseason isn't a good thing for the Red Wings. Or anyone else in the East.

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