April 22, 2014 at 1:00 am

Gregg Krupa

Youth, inexperience show on jittery Red Wings

Mike Babcock after Game 3 loss
Mike Babcock after Game 3 loss: The Red Wings' coach talks about Detroit's 3-0 loss on Tuesday night.

Detroit — The Red Wings moved even farther off their game Tuesday against the Bruins, losing again and appearing like a young team overwhelmed by the pressure of a first home game in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Boston mounted a 4-1 shot advantage in the first eight minutes. Then the Wings handed the powerful Bruins a huge present, gift-wrapped: A bench penalty for too many men on the ice and a man advantage for one of the better power plays in the game.

The Bruins scored and added their second goal 6:48 later, when the Wings committed multiple mistakes on the same play. It was 2-0.

A jittery team seemed defeated.

Much will have to change Thursday, if the Wings are not to go back to Boston down 3-1 in the series.

And it likely begins with the comparatively inexperienced Red Wings’ battered confidence.

Out of sorts

How to explain it? A team that played nearly a perfect Game 1, defeating the Bruins 1-0, has now looked utterly off their game of speed and puck possession for four of the six periods since — including the first on Sunday and all three Tuesday.

Once again, mimicking the opponent’s style did not seem the problem. It was the Wings’ inability to do almost anything to impose their will.

“Anyway you look at it, we gave them two goals,” Mike Babcock said. “It was almost like the energy in the building, the excitement or whatever, we didn’t handle it too good.

“We were out of kilter, fumbling with the puck. I don’t think we got going until 32 minutes in the game.

“I don’t know why we were rattled or nervous or excited or whatever.”

While killing the bench penalty, they allowed Dougie Hamilton to skate over their blue line and two-thirds of the way to Howard before beginning to move toward the Bruins’ defenseman. Howard then allowed what appeared to be a soft goal.

Six minutes later, with a line change clearly pending and the puck in the Red Wings’ zone, instead of getting the puck out and deep down ice, to facilitate the change, the outlet pass went directly in front of the Wings bench.

The Bruins scooped it up and started in on Howard before half the line change was done.

It may have been the worst line change of the season, amid what clearly was one of the Wings’ worst games of the season. And the Bruins had two shots on Howard and a second goal, before all but one of the Red Wings arrived to help.


Young players can only take you so far. It is a reality in all sports, perhaps more so in the fast game of hockey.

Maybe it was simply a first playoff game at home, in the careers of four of the Wings, and for the season for several other young ones. The fans are used to winning Stanley Cups in Detroit, and there is a lot of history in the building and the uniforms.

Regardless, they looked jittery, uncertain and unfocused to the point that they almost seemed to lack intent.

The Wings were so bad, the odd-man rushes by the Bruins seemed to come on a buy one, get two free basis.

“I thought we looked like kids tonight for sure,” Babcock said. “No question about it.

“I thought it would be good to start on the road, for a young team,” he said, of the seeming good fortune of having “the kids” play away from home first.

Coaches, players or both?

Babcock has had a marvelous year, perhaps the best of his nine as coach of the Red Wings that include a Stanley Cup, a trip to the finals and a marvelous, frantic stretch drive to the playoffs last season and two far-better-than-expected rounds in the playoffs.

His forte is preparation.

But the inexperienced Red Wings looked perhaps less prepared to take the ice Tuesday than they had all season.

Around the dressing room, the players put the blame squarely on their shoulders.

Babcock was less certain.

“I’m a veteran coach,” he said. “I had no idea we would start like we did tonight.

“If you look at the coaching staff, we didn’t settle them down enough.”

Rask beats Howard

When the Wings did press the initiative, including Gustav Nyquist’s four shots and Niklas Kronwall’s three, the Bruins’ goalie, Tuukka Rask, was strong, nimble and perfect, garnering a shutout.

Howard failed to erase the Wings’ big mistake on the first goal, allowing what appeared to be a relatively soft one.

Power less

The Wings are now 0-9 on the power play in the series, and 1-23 in the past six games.

They managed five shots on four power plays Tuesday. But the scoring chances were spare.

“They tracked us hard and kept us on the outside,” Babcock said. “We had a guy at the net, but you need more than a guy at the net. You need two on the side and one in the middle, and I didn’t think we had that.”


Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk and Boston's Patrice Bergeron battle for the puck in the first period. / David Guralnick / Detroit News