While the Red Wings loss in Game 2 was certainly not the outcome desired by the Hockeytown faithful, splitting the first two games in Boston is perhaps the best start Detroit could have hoped for.
The Red Wings seemed to start Game 2 with a serious case of the yips. An absent-minded giveaway in the neutral zone by rookie forward Riley Sheahan and an overly aggressive play by goalie Jimmy Howard set the tone for what would be a rocky first period.
The Red Wings ended up down by two goals after 20 minutes and outshot 18-10. This would eventually prove to be all the scoring Boston really needed, though the score was 4-1 at the final buzzer. The Red Wings finished the day outshooting Boston 35-29 in Game 2, but their effort proved too little, too late.
Why highlight a loss to begin an ostensibly positive discussion about the Red Wings’ start to this series?
The Red Wings skated to a 1-0 decision in Game 1 because they relied on their speed shift after shift to push the Bruins back, gain entry into the offensive zone and maintain a great defensive gap in the neutral zone.
For whatever reason, the Red Wings seemed to abandon this strategy and instead sought to engage in an aggressive physical battle with the Bruins in Game 2.
This failed strategy was perfectly summed up in what will likely be one of the more comical episodes of the 2014 NHL Playoffs when Detroit’s Brendan Smith decided to get physical with Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara at the end of the first period.
No team is going to out-muscle the Boston Bruins with players like Chara (who at 6’9” and 255 pounds is the largest human being to ever play in the NHL) and Milan Lucic (6’4”, 220 lbs) on the ice, so the Red Wings should perish the thought of attempting to prove otherwise.
What the Red Wings will likely learn from their Game 2 loss is perhaps as valuable as what they learned in Game 1 because it’s the same lesson—play your game.
As Ansar Kahn at Mlive.com highlighted in an interview with Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall after the Red Wings Game 1 victory, speed and discipline will win the day against the Bruins:
That’s the only way for us to have success against this team is to really use our speed as much as we can, and I thought for stretches of the game we did a pretty good job of that.
Indeed, the Red Wings used their speed to dictate the action in Game 1 and avoid trips to the penalty box as they amassed only two penalty minutes in the series opener.
Contrast that with their Game 2 performance that saw the team collectively ease up on the accelerator and create a traffic jam in the penalty box (Detroit and Boston had 14 penalty minutes each) and the Red Wings should have a very good idea of what not to do in Game 3 on Tuesday night.
In what is now a best-of-five series, the Red Wings have acquired the same knowledge in victory as they have in defeat.
To the extent that this knowledge can be turned into power, Detroit has started this series having learned a very valuable lesson.
*All statistics courtesy of NHL.com unless otherwise noted.