Last 10 Games
The Bruins were 5-5 down the stretch which had more to do with head coach Claude Julien resting key players as opposed to the B's playing mediocre hockey. However, playing .500 hockey late in the season regardless of the reason can breed bad habits. Boston dropped a 3-2 decision to Detroit during the homestretch and ended their season by the identical score in a loss to New Jersey.
The Red Wings went 6-4 in their final 10 games and crept into the playoffs, edging the Capitals for the eighth and final seed. Detroit ended their season with an exclamation point defeating Western Conference power St. Louis, courtesy of seldom used third string goalie Petr Mrazek who stopped all 23 shots en route to a 3-0 victory.
Detroit won the season series 3-1, dropping their first game in Boston 4-1 way back on October 5th but then swept the next three games by scores of 3-2, 6-1 and on April 2nd the Wings stole a 3-2 win despite getting outshot 35-20. Starting netminder Jimmy Howard was between the pipes for that critical victory while Tuukka Rask took the loss for Boston. Detroit was the only team in the NHL to defeat Boston three times this season.
The Bruins skate four solid lines. Even the fourth line consisting of Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille consistently causes problems for the league's scoring elite. They are a fierce checking unit that can, on occasion, light the lamp themselves. But the straw that stirs the drink is clearly Patrice Bergeron who doesn't get the recognition he deserves around the league because he sacrifices goal scoring for solid two-way hockey. It's a system that head coach Claude Julien demands of every player and most likely the reason that the uber talented Tyler Seguin was ticketed out of town. Nevertheless, Bergeron still netted 30 goals and along with David Krejci, Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand the Bruins boast a prolific offense which ranked 3rd in the league averaging 3.1 goals per game and now have a power play to go along with it which ranked third as well, connecting on 21.7% of their man-advantaged opportunities.
The Red Wings will be missing a crucial part of their offense and locker room leadership as veteran left winger Henrik Zetterberg is still sidelined after back surgery several weeks ago. The best Detroit fans can hope for is that he recuperates enough to perhaps partake in the latter games of the series. However, Detroit will be counting on the surprising Swedish sensation Gustav Nyquist to continue his stellar season with contributions from 41-year-old Daniel Alfredsson.
Zdeno Chara has barely missed a beat in his 15th season in the NHL and has been incorporated as a forward on the power play which puts his 6’9” frame in the middle of all the action. He heads a defensive corps that is among the best the NHL has to offer and if his defensive partner Dennis Seidenberg could return from the dead, this will be a complete mismatch not only for the Red Wings but any opponent the Bruins may face going forward.
The edge in NHL odds definitely favors the Bruins Tuukka Rask whose 2.04 GAA and .930 save percentage will put him squarely in the middle of Vezina Trophy consideration. Jimmy Howard can be a brick wall when on but has struggled at times this season. If the Wings fall behind in the series early and Howard is not at his best, don’t be surprised if third string goalie Petr Mrazek gets the nod to spark a fire over backup Jonas Gustavsson. Mrazek has sparkled in his nine appearances including two shutouts.
Though it appears the Bruins have an edge in every category including special teams, it’s not quite that easy. Detroit took three of four from the Bruins but please note in your NHL picks that Henrik Zetterberg scored in three of those four games and will not be playing. Indeed the Bruins will be fairly heavy favorites in NHL odds at Bet365.com or WilliamHill.com they should be worthy of a wager to get through the opening round.
NHL Picks: Bruins win series 4-2.