2014 NHL playoffs preview: Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings
Regular season recaps
Oct. 5: Bruins 4, Red Wings 1
Oct. 14: Red Wings 3, Bruins 2
Nov. 27: Red Wings 6, Bruins 1
April 2: Red Wings 3, Bruins 2
Red Wings: RW Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder, indefinite), C Stephen Weiss (sports hernia, indefinite), LW Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery, indefinite), D Jonathan Ericsson (finger surgery, indefinite), RW Daniel Cleary (knee sprain, indefinite)
Keys to a Bruins victory
Led by Jarome Iginla's 12th 30--goal season, the Bruins are one of just seven NHL teams with five 20-goal scorers, but Boston's success starts in net. Tuukka Rask has played like a Vezina Trophy contender, ranking in the top ten in wins (36, 5th), shutouts (7, 1st), goals-against average (2.04, 4th) and save percentage (.930, 2nd). He's been a major factor in the Bruins' late-season surge, pairing with annual Norris Trophy candidate Zdeno Chara to anchor a young and talented corps of blueliners who are still learning. Rookie defenseman Torey Krug -- a hero of Boston's 2013 playoff run -- has invigorated the team's listless power play, and added to an offense that, while it has no standouts, rolls four lines deep. For the second straight postseason, Boston's defense is riddled with injuries. The Bruins hope that Dougie Hamilton, their top pick in the 2011 draft, can apply what he learned during the run to last year's Stanley Cup finals and become a leader on back line. If he's up to the job, Hamilton -- along with Krug, Matt Bartkowski and rookie Kevan Miller -- will help shut down Nyquist and the Red Wings.
Keys to a Red Wings victory
Detroit's streak of 22 (now 23) consecutive postseason appearances was put in peril thanks to multiple visits from the Injury Ninja. Pavel Datsyuk (knee) just returned after a five-week absence, while Henrik Zetterberg (back) hasn't been on the ice since Sochi. Johan Franzen (concussion symptoms) was limited to just 54 games this season, while Mikael Samuelsson and Stephen Weiss are laid up on the IR. As the Red Wings tend to do, they looked internally for help and found a hero in 24-year-old Gustav Nyquist, who turned on the jets down the stretch, scoring 28 goals, with 20 assists, in just 57 games. Nyquist's emergence, coupled with stretches of brilliance from fellow youngster Tomas Tatar, will need to continue in the playoffs as Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson look to make magic. The venerable Alfredsson made headlines during the offseason when he spurned the Senators, the team that had drafted him and with which he had spent 17 seasons, in favor of Detroit to have a better chance at winning a Stanley Cup. For the 41-year-old Swede, it's likely now or never. Alfredsson has always raised his game for the playoffs, and on a team that suffered the fifth-most man-games lost to injury in the NHL this season, he'll be counted on to show Detroit's youngsters how it's done. While it's unfair to expect him to score at the clip he did a decade ago, he can take some of the heat off of Datsyuk, Nyquist and Tatar by chipping in a few points. In net Jimmy Howard hasn't carried as heavy a workload as most starting goalies (only 51 games). He'll need to be fresh, because he'll be up against a Bruins team that isn't afraid to get into scrums in the high-traffic areas.
Bruins in 6: Detroit and its crew of talented forwards have been a thorn in Boston's side all season. But the Wings' frantic stretch run -- coupled with the fact that the Bruins were able to give their star players some nights off toward the end of the regular season -- will catch up to them. Howard is capable of stealing a game or two, but it won't be enough to fend off a rough-and-ready Boston team that is built for the playoffs. Round 1 will be good experience for Detroit's emerging stars, but expect the Bruins to wear the kids down and, eventually, out.
Game 1: April 18, @ Boston; 7:30 pm ET (NBCSN, TSN)
Game 2: April 20 @ Boston, 3 pm ET (NBC, TSN)
Game 3: April 22 @ Detroit, 7:30 pm ET (NBCSN, TSN)
Game 4: April 24 @ Detroit, 8 pm ET (CNBC, TSN)
*Game 5: April 26 @ Boston, 3 pm ET (NBC, TSN)
*Game 6: April 28 @ Detroit, time TBD, (TSN)
*Game 7: April 30 @ Boston, time TBD (TSN)