Tuukka Rask has proven he can handle a heavy workload this season and seeks to avenge last year’s Stanley Cup finals loss.
by Christopher Wenrich
After savoring their Stanley Cup victory in 2011, the Boston Bruins experienced the bitterness of defeat at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013. Once again, the Bruins are among the heavy favorites to win the Cup.
258 goals for (3rd)
171 goals against (2nd)
21.7 PP% (3rd)
83.6 PK% (8th)
The Bruins are strong in every aspect of the game and should be heavy favorites over the Red Wings. Goaltender Tuukka Rask was spectacular this season, sporting a 36-15-6 record and a 2.04 GAA (4th), .930 SV% and a league-leading seven shutouts. Rask is arguably the best goaltender in the National Hockey League and demonstrated this season that he can handle a heavy workload.
Having Zdeno Chara in front his a huge asset to Rask. Chara’s reach is known to cause havoc in the passing lanes and disrupt scoring chances, but his offensive game should not be overlooked, as he tallied 40 points in 77 games. The Bruins acquired Andrej Meszaros from the Philadelphia Flyers at the trade deadline. At the time, Meszaros was returning to his old form and he posted five points in 14 games with the Bruins. Youngster Torey Krug also had a productive season, posting 40 points in 77 games.
Up front, Milan Lucic rebounded from a disappointing 2012-2013 season in which he registered 27 points in 46 games and a +8 rating. In 2013-2014, Lucic notched 59 points and a +30 rating while scoring on 15.7% of his shots (he scored on only 8.9% last season). Jarome Iginla was also productive with 61 points in 78 games in the 12th 30-goal season of his career. Iginla’s 61 points was third among the Bruins and trailed only David Krejci (69) and Patrice Bergeron (62).
Aside from Rask in goal, Bergeron may be the key to the Bruins’ success. In addition to Bergeron’s 62 points and +38 rating, he led the NHL in faceoff wins (1,015) and was third in faceoff percentage (58.6%). Bergeron’s superb two-way play is a vital component to the Bruins’ success.
Detroit Red Wings
217 goals for (16th)
221 goals against (16th)
17.7 PP% (18th)
83.0 PK% (12th)
The NHL’s realignment plan brought the Red Wings to the Eastern Conference and they are heavy underdogs in their series with the Bruins. Daniel Alfredsson led the team in scoring with 49 points in 68 games. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall also had 49 points (78 games). A defenseman leading or tied for the team lead in points is not a regular occurrence. Prior to Erik Karlsson and Shea Weber this season, and Weber last season, the last defenseman to lead their team in scoring was the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Dick Tarnstrom in 2003-2004.
Pavel Datsyuk had 37 points in 45 games this season. The 35-year-old Russian may not have the ability to post Crosby-like numbers, but very few play the game better than Datsyuk. He still has the ability to control the tempo of a game with the puck and the to take the puck away from others. Despite appearing in only 45 games, Datsyuk ranked 15th among forwards with 59 takeaways; Ryan O’Reilly (Colorado Avalanche) led the NHL with 83 takeaways in 80 games.
Although the Red Wings’ NHL rankings may look unimpressive, they are not a team to be underestimated. In addition to Datsyuk’s injury, Henrik Zetterberg was limited to 45 games and Johan Franzen appeared in 54 contests. Zetterberg is still recovering from a bad back and skated for the first time in over month on Thursday. His status for the series is unknown. For the Red Wings to have any realistic chance of defeating the Bruins, Datsyuk will need to be on top of his game. Dastsyuk had 21 points in 19 wins this season, but only 16 points in 26 losses. If Datsyuk and Franzen can generate some offense and not fall too far behind in the series before Zetterberg returns, the Red Wings may have a shot at pulling off the upset.
Christopher Wenrich is a contributor for Designated For Assignment. Follow him on Twitter (@DuggerSports).