Pavel Datsyuk

NHL Playoffs: Bruins vs. Red Wings

Tuukka Rask Bruins 2014 favorites

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.

Boston Bruins
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).

Oshie Gives Russians The Blues

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“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them” – William Shakespeare

Some rules are made to be broken, while others are made to be changed. After Team USA beat Team Russia in a shootout Saturday afternoon, you can’t blame the Russian squad for wanting the shootout rules changed. The St. Louis Blues’ T.J. Oshie scored in the 8th round of sudden death one on one with the opposing goaltender for a 3-2 US victory.

Unlike the NHL, once you pass the third round of the shootout you can use the same player as many times as you would like. US coach Dan Bylsma stuck with Oshie for every shot from the fourth round on. Twice Oshie beat Russian (and Columbus Blue Jacket) goalie Sergei Bobrovski in a do or die situation and then finished off the game when a goal would win it in the eighth round.

The game was an exciting match that evoked memories of the “Miracle on Ice” that occurred when the two teams met in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, NY. The current US squad, made up exclusively from NHL players, is nothing like that team though. While the college kids of 1980 weren’t expected to medal, this US team is one of the favorites with Canada, Sweden, and Russia.

The game was scoreless through the first period with Bobrovski turning aside 10 shots while US goaltender Jonathan Quick stopped all 13 pucks he faced. Pavel Datsyuk broke the scoreless tie at 9:15 of the second period when he took a long outlet pass from Andrei Markov,  burst through the US defense and slam dunked the puck past Quick for 1-0 Russian lead.  Team USA tied it with Alexander Radulov in the penalty box for a cross check later in the period. Defenseman Cam Fowler pinched in from the right point to bang home a loose puck in front to even things up at one apiece.

Team USA took the lead in the third period with another power play goal after Radulov got sent to the box once again, this time for hooking. Patrick Kane took a pass on the far boards and threaded the needle between two Russian defenders to get the puck to the bottom of the right side circle where Joe Pavelski one timed the it past “Bob” for a 2-1 US lead.  Datsyuk and Markov teamed up again though when Dustin Brown was sent off for kneeing with under eight minutes to play. With the man advantage. Datsyuk took a pass from Markov at the right point, skated to the right circle and whipped a wrister to the glove side past a screened Quick.

With the game tied at two apiece the US got a huge break when it appeared Team Russia had gone ahead. Defenseman Fedor Tuytin took a snapped one from the left point that eluded Quick with 4:40 left in regulation. But the US goaltender quickly pointed out to the referee that the net was off its moorings when the puck entered it. A video replay agreed – Quick thought the net had to be set in place for a goal to count and he was right – the go ahead goal was disallowed and the game went into overtime.

Kane had the best chance to win it when he had a breakaway midway through the extra session, but Bobrovski stood his ground and made the save. With the shots on goal 33-31 in the US’ favor, the game went to the decisive shootout.

Oshie, known in the NHL for his shootout skills, went first and beat Bobrovski for the only goal through 2 1/2 rounds. Down to their last chance, Ilya Kovalchuk fired a forehand shot past Quick on the glove side to send the game to extra rounds. Oshie and Kovalchuk were both stymied, but Daystuk scored again in the fifth round to put the pressure back on Oshie. He came through, beating Bobrovski to keep things going.

Kovalchuk beat Quick in the sixth round, which meant the US, or Oshie specifically, had to score again to go to the next round. He did just that; the centerman skated slowly towards the crease and at the last moment broke right to beat Bobrovski.

After Datsyuk and Oshie were both stymied in the seventh round, Quick came up big with a last second glove/arm save on Kovalchuk at the right post. Then it was all Oshie time; the 27-year old put the past Bobrovski for the fourth time in the shootout to end the contest, 3-2 Team USA.

The game winner

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It’s not the medal round, but it was a huge win for the US since it could mean a bye later on in the tournament. Now Oshie, the one man wrecking team, and the rest of the US squad must not get caught in a trap game with feisty Slovenia Sunday morning.

 

Drew Sarver is the publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.