5 reasons the Red Wings can beat the Bruins

The play of Jimmy Howard will determine how far the Red Wings go in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The play of goalie Jimmy Howard will determine how far the Red Wings go in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With the Detroit Red Wings finishing in the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference, few in the hockey world are giving them a chance against their first round opponent, even after their Game 1 victory on Friday night.

Paired up against the President Trophy-winning Boston Bruins, the consensus is that the Red Wings will be easily disposed of and that they are an inferior team. However, fans should resist the urge to jump to these conclusions as this Red Wings team has proved they have more than a few tricks up their sleeves especially when they have their backs up against the wall.

Let’s take a look at five reasons the Detroit Red Wings can defeat the Boston Bruins in their opening series matchup.

1. Season Series Record

The Bruins and Red Wings have already faced off four times this season. For some reason the skeptics are ignoring the fact that Detroit has been victorious on three of the four occasions. In the first meeting back in October the Wings were waxed and beaten all over the ice by a score of 4-1. Since then, Detroit has reeled off three straight wins and outscored Boston by seven goals. Boston plays a very physical and hulking style, if Detroit plays their puck-possession game and uses their speed, they will have a chance. They cannot play into Boston’s hand and try and muck it up and play the physical game, they do not possess the size. If the Wings stick to their style, they have a better chance than the pundits have given them, as proven by the season head-to-head record.

2. Youth Factor

All of the talking heads are jawing that the Wings do not stand a chance because the Bruins are more experienced and have been down this road before. Conversely they are saying the Wings are being led by a bunch of young and inexperienced kids from Grand Rapids. Well, who led the way for the Wings into the playoffs? Those same pesky kids. So why is it that they are mature enough to qualify for the playoffs but once the spotlight is shining down on them they will undoubtedly fold?

The likes of Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, and Luke Glendening have all been through this type of pressure situation before. Albeit with the Grand Rapids Griffins, there is minimal difference. In the Stanley Cup playoffs, sure, there will be stiffer competition. However, they have a greater support system that includes veterans like Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall, Johan Franzen, and Daniel Alfredsson. So it makes more sense that there will be little in the way of jitters. Quite the contrary, I see the “inexperience” as being somewhat of a benefit because they largely have nothing to lose. Everyone has doubted them all season and now they can play their free-flowing brand of hockey without much in the way of pressure to pull out the upset.

3. Jimmy Howard

Jimmy Howard had an atrocious and shaky start to this year’s season to say the least. It also must be said that he was riddled with injuries, like the entire Red Wings team, and without the surprising play of Jonas Gustavsson the playoffs would not even be a conversation. However Jimmy Howard is on a roll of late. And what makes a team a force in the playoffs? A hot goalie.

In his last five games played, Jimmy Howard has been victorious in four with a goals against average of 2.00 and a .920 save percentage. In all of those games he made game saving stops that he will undoubtedly need to show more of in the playoffs.

With Howard’s current hot streak and the Wings offence firing on all cylinders, there is no reason the Wings cannot make this a series. This team will live and die by the play off Jimmy Howard. He will either be the scapegoat or the hero, and for his benefit (and that of the fans) I hope he comes up big.

4. The Various X-Factors

There are many unknowns going into this series.

Will Henrik Zetterberg return at some point?

We all saw the pure magic of Pavel Datsyuk in Game 1.  Will he be able to continue to play at that level?

In the Sochi Olympics, Pav was playing injured and still managed to toy with the American defense and shredded them at every opportunity. With Pavel at 90 percent and the ability to make the puck look like a yo-yo on his stick he will give the Bruins defense a reason to be intimidated every time he rolls glides across their blueline. Additionally, he could prove vital in cancelling out the play of the hulking Patrice Bergeron. While Bergeron has the size advantage, Pavel’s hockey sense and positional awareness is second to none and he could definitely give Bergeron a hell of a time taking advantage of the Wings weak defensive core.

Also, the Wings have the benefit of having a healty Darren Helm on their playoff roster this year. He has a habit of being in the right place at the right time, and although not the largest guy on the ice, he can definitely put away a few greasy goals. His blazing and reckless speed will prove vital to beating the bruins through the neutral zone. The Wings cannot get into a dump and chase style of play against Boston, and the likes of Helmer and Pav will prove vastly important in advancing the puck into the attacking zone.

5. Coaching

The Red Wings have the benefit of having the best coach in hockey behind their bench. Mike Babcock has a hockey mind like no other, and he proved it by coaching this bruised and beaten up team into the playoffs for the franchise’s 23rd consecutive year. Babcock’s modus operandi is that if you possess the puck for a greater amount of time, you have a greater chance to win the game. By playing a puck possession style, you keep the puck away from the other team, thus minimizing the opposition’s scoring opportunities. It is not rocket science and he will undoubtedly be tattooing this into his team’s head. He coached Team Canada to a second consecutive gold medal this Olympics with largely the same model of play which is not the easiest thing to do when you have egos the size of the moon on your Olympic Squad. This style was on prime display during the game against the Americans. When the US attack crossed through the neutral zone, Babcock instructed four of his own men to hold the blueline and make it a living hell for the American attack to enter with anything other than a dump, and it worked marvelously. The USA squad possessed a larger amount of speed and finesse than Boston’s forwards will threaten with. If he can pull of this kind of game plan again, the Red Wings have a very good chance of taking the Bruins to the brink.