Boston Bruins vs Detroit Red Wings: Stanley Cup 2014 first-round preview

Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Boston Bruins’ reward for winning the Presidents’ Trophy: a first-round date with the Detroit Red Wings.

The Red Wings remind me of several recent Cup finalists that entered the Stanley Cup playoffs in a low-seed because of poor regular season results.

In 2010, the Philadelphia Flyers failed to meet 82 game expectations. They qualified for the playoffs on the last day of the regular season, beating out the New York Rangers in a shootout. The Flyers went on to the Cup Finals that year and lost in six to the Chicago Blackhawks.

In 2012, the Kings pulled off a similar feat, entering the playoffs in the eight-seed only to win the Cup a few months down the road. Will the Red Wings make the Stanley Cup Finals this season? That remains to be seen, but if they can find a way to survive their first-round against the Bruins, their path to the Finals opens up considerably.

The Boston Bruins are the best team in the National Hockey League. Their lineup features the best fourth-line in hockey, proven playoff warriors galore all throughout the lineup, this season’s likely Vezina winner, a probable Selke winner, and possible Norris winner, plus, arguably the NHL’s most versatile defence corps. They should beat the Wings.

The Detroit Red Wings have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the twenty-third straight time but they had to go on a terrific late-season run to make it happen. The main questions now: Are the Red Wings burnt-out from basically playing playoff hockey for the past six weeks? Or, are the Wings just heating up, fully primed for playoff battles against a Bruins’ team that has been in cruise-control for awhile?

The Bruins have a recent track-record that suggests they are slow starters in the Stanley Cup playoffs but once they get rolling they’re tough to topple.

Boston has played in three-straight first-round game seven overtimes. They beat the Habs and Leafs in 2011 and 2013, respectively. And they lost to the Washington Capitals in Game Seven of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, first-round. Should the Bruins begin the 2014 Stanley Cup tournament slowly, they could be vulnerable and the Wings may stun them. That being said, a fully-charged, ready-to-go Bruins team is simply too deep and strong for the Wings, or anyone else in the East. Boston has been incredible all season long – they’ve earned the right to be considered the favourite.

The Red Wings won the season series, taking three of four against the B’s. That being said, season series results don’t always translate over to the postseason, especially with a team like the Bruins that is at its best when emotions run-high.

The health of Wings’ captain Henrik Zetterberg is concerning. Entering the postseason, Zetterberg is not expected to play against Boston, but it has been hinted in the past that he could return at some point in the first-round. The Bruins can throw great centremen over the boards in waves, all night. If Zetterberg returns to join Datsyuk, Legwand and others, you can say the same about Detroit’s centres.

If the Bruins have one advantage on most teams, it’s playoff experience. However, the Wings core has been there, done that in the postseason, themselves. And their younger players experienced two rounds last spring, losing in seven to the eventual Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Between the pipes: Tuukka Rask is possibly the best goaltender in the NHL. The Red Wings’ Jimmy Howard may not be as acclaimed or proven in the spring, but he’s capable of winning big games, something he proved in the first-round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs when he backstopped the eighth seeded Wings to a triumph over the Anaheim Ducks.

Bruins Injuries: D Dennis Seidenberg (knee), D Adam McQuaid (strained muscle), C Chris Kelly (strained back), C Patrice Bergeron (day-to-day), LW Dan Paille (upper body).

Red Wings Injuries: C Stephen Weiss (sports hernia surgery), C Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery), LW Dan Cleary (sprained knee), D Jonathan Ericsson (finger surgery).

*Injuries courtesy of TSN.

Sal’s Prediction: Bruins in 7.

Sticking with recent Bruins tradition, I believe they will have a tough first-round. And, my respect for the Red Wings organization leads me to believe they will come to play and provide one heck of a challenge for the defending Eastern Conference champs. In the end, I foresee the Bruins depth and hardened core of vets reigning supreme in Game Seven.

Brett’s Prediction: Bruins in 7. 

This series is way tighter than the records suggest. Detroit took three of four from the B’s in the regular season and are the healthiest they’ve been in a while with Datsyuk returning last week. However, Boston’s just too deep in all aspects to bow out this early. Suspect it won’t be done quickly though and this will go down to the wire. Bruins in 7.