Detroit Red Wings' 5 Biggest Questions in Playoff Series vs. Boston Bruins
The Red Wings finished the season on a 6-2-1 hot streak, but still looked fragile from time to time, as they struggled to put some games away.
The Bruins, meanwhile, used a 12-game winning streak in March to run away with the Eastern Conference title, eventually winning the Presidents' Trophy as well.
But the Bruins went 2-2-3 over their last seven games, showing they are in fact human. With Detroit being the only team that has beaten the mighty Bruins three times this season, this should be quite the series.
Here are the five biggest questions for the Detroit Red Wings in their first-round series against the Bruins.
Note: "Biggest" in this context, means most likely to result in a series win for either team.
1. Can Detroit Limit the Number of Shots That Jimmy Howard Faces?
The Bruins are going to get their scoring chances, and they are going to get their goals. That much is for sure.
The question for the Red Wings is can they can limit the number of stops Jimmy Howard must make to keep the Red Wings in the game, and more importantly, give Detroit a chance in the series?
Detroit gave up 119 shots in four meetings with the Bruins—an average of almost 30 shots per game—with that average being even higher if Boston wasn't held to just 17 shots in one of the four meetings.
That "30-shot plateau" is actually meaningful, as Howard's record is 9-6-3 since January 31 when he faces 30 shots or fewer.
His record is just 1-1 against the Bruins, and he faced an average of 36 shots per game, which is far too many for the Red Wings to advance to the next round.
2. Can Wings Continue to Contain Chara, Bruins Defense?
There is no defenseman on the Bruins more capable of scoring over the past few seasons than Zdeno Chara.
Although Torey Krug tied Chara in points this season with 40, the fact that Detroit held him to just one point (a power-play goal) and a minus-five rating through four contests this season is commendable.
For Mike Babcock and the Red Wings to beat the Bruins in a seven-game series, the key should be not letting the Bruins defensemen get involved in scoring.
Taking away Chara from the offensive equations means the Bruins need players like Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla to step up on offense.
As an "underdog," the Red Wings need to take away as many options from the Bruins as possible. Taking Chara and defensive scoring away from the Bruins will be key in Detroit moving on.
3. How Do the Red Wings Plan on Limiting the Bruins Special Teams?
Special teams can tip the balance of a playoff series.
As of right now, the Bruins have a heavy edge in that area over the course of the season with the third-highest power play and the eighth-highest penalty kill in terms of percentage.
Luckily for the Red Wings, the Bruins have just three power-play markers on 16 chances against Detroit, but the Wings have just one goal with the man advantage on eight chances.
Which team's special teams comes up bigger in this series?
It will likely provide the necessary spark to gain a decisive advantage in the series.
4. Can the Red Wings Continue to Get Goals from "The Kids"?
With Henrik Zetterberg out of the lineup for the near future, will the Red Wings be able to continue to depend on their "kids?"
The kids, have in fact, been alright for Detroit. Not only have they been decent, but it was Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tatar who scored all of the goals in the most recent Red Wings win over the Bruins. These players can get to the net in a hurry, and they aren't shy about shooting when the chances are available.
With the Red Wings hurting for offense when the kids don't score, it is imperative they find a way to continue to get scoring chances and bury them when necessary. Jurco, Nyquist, Tatar and others all played on last year's AHL championship with the Grand Rapids Griffins, and they all scored big goals along the way.
Can they put on an encore performance in the first round of the NHL playoffs?
5. Can Detroit Find a Way to Keep the Bruins Away from the Net?
"Two plus two equals four."
"The Boston Bruins love to get to the front of the net."
If fans reading this are thinking "Thanks, Captain Obvious," well then sorry for being the bearer of bad news, but the Red Wings will lose this series unless they can keep the Bruins from getting to the front of the net and poking in rebounds on a regular basis.
Whether it is rebounds or simply screening Howard, the Red Wings will lose this series if they cannot keep the front of the crease reasonably clear of Bruins bodies.
All statistics via NHL.com