Pavel Datsyuk's Magic Lifts Red Wings in Game 1 as Bruins' Offense Disappears

Adrian Dater@@adaterNHL National ColumnistApril 18, 2014

USA Today

After two periods Friday night, this is what NBC analysts Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones had to say about the scoreless game between the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins:

Roenick: "I think their speed is starting to overpower Boston. Boston, I think, really couldn’t handle it."

Jones: "Without question, Boston is starting to get frustrated by Detroit’s speed."

Then the Bruins went out and largely controlled the pace in the third period. A top-seeded team on home ice got its wake-up call, and the Bruins seemed on the precipice of doing what they usually do, which is win in the end.

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 13: Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the St. Louis Blues during an NHL game on April 13, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Mark Buckner/NHLI via Getty Images)
Mark Buckner/Getty Images

But a road team in a tie game in a third period only has to get fortunate once, and any team with a Pavel Datsyuk on it can meet that low barrier.

Datsyuk’s brilliant goal with 3:01 left in the game won it for the Wings, 1-0 at the TD Gah-Den. The Bruins were reduced to a chippy bunch when the final horn sounded, with Milan Lucic trying to goon it up with frustrated cross-checks. Detroit didn’t bite, preferring to surround goalie Jimmy Howard with pawed pats to the head.

The Bruins are still the better team in this series, but Datsyuk is the best player. He's 35, and he's been injury-prone the last few years. But when he's reasonably healthy, he's still better than most anyone on the planet.

His goal was just a beauty: Slick sauce stickwork, deking over the blue line, using Zdeno Chara as a screen for a long wrist shot past Tuukka Rask. Game over.

The Wings were supposed to be a little too old, a little too banged up to hang with the Big, Bad Bruins. But they came into Boston looking completely unfazed. That especially applied to goalie Jimmy Howard, who pitched a 25-save shutout.

"It was a hard-fought game. I just wanted to give our team a chance to win," Howard told NBC's Pierre McGuire right after.

Howard also had an interesting comment to McGuire about his coach, Mike Babcock.

"At times in the past, I think he was a little bit more intense, and now he’s coaching a lot more," Howard said.

Babcock is lorded over by the national hockey media, as is his GM, Ken Holland. Fact is, the Wings haven't been past the second round of the playoffs the past four years, and both have proven fallible with some of their decisions.

Holland has made some bad trades and signings (Stephen Weiss, Kyle Quincey, Todd Bertuzzi), while Babcock wears his players down with his jut-jawed bromides. Yet, here they are again, in the playoffs as an organization for the 23rd straight season and up 1-0 now on the vaunted Bruins.

What happened to the Boston offense in Game 1? A sampling of some of the local media's analysis:

I'll agree with my friend Joe Haggerty of Comcast Sportsnet New England here. Lucic exemplified the wrong kind of Boston game plan against the Wings. Detroit wants to get you frustrated with their skill and puck possession. They'll take the occasional cheap shot to either go on the power play or get you off your game mentally, or both.

That's what happened tonight. Boston didn't play a bad game at all; they were the better team in the third and nearly put one past Howard a couple times. But in a one-shot game with time running out, a Datsyuk on your side pretty much always give you the advantage, even at his age.

As former Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood, now a TV analyst for the Wings, said: The late-season injury to Datsyuk might prove a big blessing to the Wings this spring.

"I'm sure they would've loved to have had him all the time, but he's rested, and I think he's played a perfect amount of games to have his A-game ready the first game of this series," Osgood said on Fox Sports Detroit's pregame show.

This series figures to go the distance or come close. I'll still take the Bruins to win it, but with Pavel Datsyuk feeling good in the postseason? 

I ain't betting the mortgage on Boston.


Adrian Dater has covered the NHL since 1995 for The Denver Post. Follow him on Twitter @Adater.