Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock knows his team is relatively young and inexperienced. That’s still no excuse for what he saw them do Tuesday night.
The Wings laid a stinker as the Boston Bruins came into Joe Louis Arena and cruised to a 3-0 win in Game 3 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series. Boston’s win gives it a 2-1 series lead, and it allows the Bruins to regain home-ice advantage.
The most discouraging part of Tuesday’s loss for Babcock and the Wings is that many of the wound’s were self-inflicted. One would think that the Wings would come out with an inspired effort in their first home playoff game of the season. That certainly was not the case. The Wings’ first period in Game 3 was their worst 20-minute showing of the entire series.
Detroit was uncharacteristically sloppy with the puck and in its decision-making. They made mental mistakes, too. The Bruins took advantage of all of them.
The first real bad mistake came when the Red Wings were called for too many men on the ice at the 7:40 mark of the first. The careless infraction was especially boneheaded given the Bruins’ power-play success entering Game 3. The B’s had scored two power-play goals in Game 2, and Detroit did itself no favors going down a man so early.
Naturally, the Bruins made them pay for the mental gaffe. They didn’t make it very difficult for the Bruins to cash in, either. Boston iced the puck, and it looked like the Wings had caught a break. That’s when Patrice Bergeron won a defensive zone faceoff, Reilly Smith made a simple D-to-D pass, and Dougie Hamilton was off to the races. Channeling Bobby Orr, Hamilton went end to end and ripped a wrist shot by Jimmy Howard.
About seven minutes later, the Wings screwed up another line change. This one came with immediate regret and disaster. The Red Wings were slow getting back to the bench, and the Boston fourth line made them pay. Shawn Thornton ended up all alone, and while his shot was stopped, Jordan Caron jumped into the play and scored on the rebound.
The change looks even worse in photographic form.
Screenshot via NHL.com
The Red Wings were, quite frankly, pretty fortunate to escape the period just down a pair of goals. While Detroit eventually started to fight back some, they were never really in the game. The mistakes weren’t as bad as the game went on, but Detroit did end the game with eight giveaways. Those giveaways weren’t a product of having the puck more, either, as the Bruins dominated the puck possession battle.
As you might imagine, Babcock was none too pleased with his team’s showing in a pivotal Game 3.
“To me, I don’t think there’s ever anything wrong with losing when you maximized your group and did everything you could,” he said in his postgame news conference. “That’s why (Tuesday’s game is) disappointing to me. We’ve been way better than that. That’s unacceptable. That’s not taking anything away from the Bruins.”
The good news for the Red Wings is that the series is far from over. The Wings could come out and play much better on Thursday in Game 4. A win in that game would send the series back to Boston all squared. However, the differences in depth between the two teams is well established by now. The Red Wings need to be near-perfect to win this series, and they were far from that on Tuesday night.