BOSTON — Bruins captain Zdeno Chara swears it wasn’t as easy as it looked, but the B’s finished off the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday afternoon with a 4-2 win that gave Boston the series win in a seemingly tidy five games.
Yet after the series-clinching game — in which Chara scored arguably the most important goal — the Boston defenseman stood in front of reporters and said that this win was much more challenging than the five-game outcome seemed to indicate.
“That series was much tougher than maybe the results showed,” Chara said. “Detroit is a really good team with a great system, great players. We were just able to play our game and stay on top of it. It wasn’t a one-sided series; it was much closer.”
He would know better than any of us, but it certainly didn’t look that way.
One area where the Red Wings simply could not match the Bruins was in overall depth. Then again, there might not be any team in the league that can go player-for-player with the Bruins. But the Wings were especially overmatched, especially given the injury situation. Pavel Datsyuk wasn’t 100 percent. Henrik Zetterberg played in just two games. Jimmy Howard came down with the flu and missed Games 4 and 5. Even with those players in the lineup, you’d still be hard-pressed not to take the Bruins’ roster over Detroit.
The Bruins’ ability to roll all four lines at almost any given moment helped the Bruins neutralize the Red Wings’ biggest strength: their team speed. Boston took the body early and often (164 registered hits over five games), not shying away from any chance to lay a hit on the Wings. That takes its toll after a while. Combined with an increased awareness as to what the Wings can do if they get out in space, the B’s were able to make sure Detroit didn’t play the game it likely preferred.
Boston’s ability to totally dominate the special teams game also played a huge roll in the series. The Bruins scored two power-play goals in the Game 5 win on Saturday, and they were 6-for-16 (37.5 percent) with the man-advantage in the series. Overall, the power play was responsible for half of the Bruins’ non-empty net goals. That’s a far cry from, say, the 2011 playoffs where the Bruins went the entire seven-game, first-round series against Montreal without scoring a single power-play goal (0-for-21). What was once a liability is now a strength.
“They (the power-play goals) were all huge, huge goals,” Bruins winger Milan Lucic said. “Our power play has been good for us all year, I think it finished in third to the overall standings throughout the season, so it’s nice that it’s a weapon instead of something that’s kind of taking momentum away from us.”
And despite allowing a goal Saturday, the penalty kill was just as good. The Wings scored just twice on 20 power-play chances in the series and never really established that as any sort of weapon.
“Obviously the power play has helped us a lot through this series and it certainly makes it a lot easier,” B’s coach Claude Julien said. “We’ve won before without having a successful power play, but when you’ve got that in your arsenal, it certainly makes it a lot easier. Our penalty kill’s been great since the beginning of the playoffs and we need to continue to be a strong in both those areas, and we were.”
The special teams proficiency, along with having a deeper, more talented roster, made for what certainly looked like an easy series for the Bruins.