Detroit Red Wings' Blueprint to a Deep Run in 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs
The Detroit Red Wings outlasted the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals matchup, but the Wings will need a blueprint to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs and not flame out after the first game or first series.
The Red Wings did a lot of good things in their 1-0 Game 1 win against Boston, but some of those things were "a first" for the Red Wings, as far as recent memory is concerned.
Here are six keys to a blueprint for a deep playoff run for the Detroit Red Wings.
Note: Each "key" is something that Detroit did well in Game 1 and will continue to have to do well in order to move on in the playoffs.
All statistics via NHL.com.
"Start on Time"
Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock has a saying that he likes to use to describe how he would like his team to start games.
“You have to start on time.”
Babcock recently used that phrase in December, via Ansar Khan of MLive, to describe an embarrassing loss to the New York Islanders, but hasn't had to use it very often down the stretch, as the Wings have been self-starters as of late.
Detroit got off to another good start on Friday night in Boston, outshooting the Bruins by an 11-9 margin in the first period and keeping the Bruins off the scoreboard.
For Detroit to go anywhere in these playoffs, it needs to get "started on time" and make sure it presses the issue in the first period.
Although the Wings didn't score, they put Boston on their heels for the rest of the game and took advantage of the Bruins' tentativeness to mount their own chances on Tuukka Rask. Pavel Datsyuk eventually beat the potential Vezina Trophy winner with just over three minutes to go in the third period.
Limit Opposition to "One-and-Done" Chances on Defense
The Red Wings did a great job of limiting the Bruins in total shots (25 for the game) in Game 1, but a big part of this was limiting the number of looks they had at the net at any one time.
In the video above, the Bruins bring the puck over the line with 15:13 to go in the second period. By 14:58 of the first period, just 15 seconds later, the Red Wings have limited Boston to a subpar shot by Dougie Hamilton from the point, exited the zone and transitioned to a rush going the other way.
As a team that has a distinct size disadvantage, the Red Wings can ill-afford to spend a lot of time in their own zone and they spent hardly any time in their own end until the last few minutes of regulation.
Limiting the Bruins to one-and-done chances will make Jimmy Howard and Red Wings defensemen's lives a lot easier. It will give the Red Wings the upper hand in this series and against any opponent they play going forward.
Win the Takeaway/Giveaway Battle
The Detroit Red Wings are "underdogs" in this series, whether hockey pundits and fans want to admit it or not. The Bruins won the Presidents' Trophy and finished a country mile ahead of Detroit in the standings.
For the Red Wings to remain close to the Bruins in this series and possibly win the series, the Red Wings will need to control the flow of play. To control the pace, the Red Wings must win the turnover battle.
Fans, players and others need to look no further regarding the importance of puck control than the final score of Game 1.
A 1-0 score says it all—one mistake could cost a team the game.
The Wings shouldn't need any more reasons than that one to try to limit their giveaways in an attempt to control the pace of the game.
Go to the Net
Coming into this series, it was thought the Bruins would be the team going to the net more often against the smaller Detroit Red Wings.
That was not the case in Game 1, as the Red Wings forwards took advantage of some hesitation on Boston's defense and drove the net on numerous occasions.
Detroit's efforts to drive the Boston goal finally paid off when Justin Abdelkader forced the Bruins' defensemen to take him going to the net late in the third period. Datsyuk capitalized on the opportunity and fired a wrister between the glove and pad of Tuukka Rask.
For the Red Wings to continue to get the best of Rask and the Bruins, Detroit needs to find a way to continue to get traffic to the net and deny Rask the ability to see shots on a consistent basis.
The Red Wings have plenty of forwards who aren't afraid to take the puck to the net. Whether that results in traffic or just plain clutter in front of Rask is irrelevant as the Red Wings will reap the benefits of going to the net in the form of a screened goalie or juicy rebounds.
Make Tuukka Rask, Not Jimmy Howard, Be the Difference in the Series
If the Red Wings can limit the number of high-quality scoring chances on Jimmy Howard and get to the net on a regular basis, they will make life very difficult for Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.
Simply put, although Rask has been great this season, he has not really faced any adversity with his team, coasting into the playoffs and topping the NHL in points.
Rask has been there when the Bruins have needed him at some points this season. But the Bruins were third in the NHL during the regular season with 3.15 goals per game and have a No. 1 defenseman named Zdeno Chara.
That had to have taken some of the pressure off Rask throughout the season.
This is a new season.
If the Wings can make it out of the first round, they must allow Howard to make saves and keep pressuring the other teams' goalies to be the better goalie in the series.