What the Red Wings knew coming into the series against the best team in the NHL during the regular season is they needed to make few mistakes, get good goaltending, retain their style of game and use their speed in order to prevail.
Apparently, after accomplishing that in Game 1, they got a big reminder in Game 2.
Some early, ragged execution by the Wings, including Jimmy Howard, led to goals and penalties.
It added up to what Mike Babcock sometimes calls “Un-Red-Wing-like” play.
They looked “slower.” But that was exaggerated by their failure to perform the essentials.
The Bruins seized the opportunities.
They had a big first period, with two goals. They scored consecutively at the end of the second and beginning of the third — after the Red Wings’ outages on the power play failed to close a 2-1 deficit.
With play fairly even seven minutes in and the puck in the Bruins zone, the Red Wings were suddenly unable to control it.
Within moments, they looked utterly mystified. Crucial minutes of the game would slip by and the Bruins would score twice before the Wings recovered equilibrium.
Riley Sheahan seemed to have the puck just inside the Boston zone. But suddenly, with the Red Wings concerned about changing lines, it was loose and headed down ice toward Howard.
The goalie wisely came out to play it. But in attempting to get it to Brendan Smith he unloaded a live hand grenade of a pass that bounced off the defenseman at the sideboards and on to the stick of Justin Florek.
With Howard now far out of his net, Florek put it in.
With the Wings discombobulated and under duress after the ensuing faceoff, Jakub Kindl was whistled for interference and before they could kill it, Danny DeKeyser was going off for slashing.
They were penalties of carelessness born of desperation.
The Red Wings killed the 5-on-3, but not DeKeyser’s penalty.
Kyle Quincey and Brian Lashoff allowed the Bruins to get behind them in their deployment and on to Howard, letting Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith do the damage.
It was 2-0, and all the Wings had done was to make a few mistakes and come off their game, a bit.
“We weren’t very good here tonight,” Babcock said in the dressing room.
“The lesson is: If you win Game 1, you’ve got to get ready for Game 2. We weren’t ready. We started, but we didn’t get it to the end.”
He has given his club lots of chances to win over his five season, generally lifting his game in stretch drives to the playoffs and in the postseason.
But Howard has weaknesses. Most prominently, handling the puck and rebound control.
Both bit him and the Red Wings Sunday, with nasty results.
Howard’s mistake with the loose puck out of the Bruins zone on the first goal was a glaring example.
His failure to handle rebounds seemed to contribute significantly to both Smith’s goal and the third one by Milan Lucic, which restored the Bruins’ two-goal lead after Luke Glendening had brought it to 2-1.
Howard nearly had the puck wrapped up at Lucic’s feet. But it came out.
That was a back-breaking goal at 18:16 of the second period, when the Wings had fought valiantly to restore their game.
The Red Wings did a fairly good job of responding to the 2-0 lead they, by and large, handed the Bruins.
When the Bruins tried to hand it back, the Wings refused the offer.
Boston’s discipline lagged, and the Red Wings had three consecutive power plays in the second period; two with the score 2-0 and one with the score 2-1.
They got one shot, total.
The lack of contributions from Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg and Todd Bertuzzi is telling.
Franzen leads the team with seven power-play goals. But the notoriously streaky forward has one goal in 21 games.
Bertuzzi, with six power-play goals, is a healthy scratch. Zetterberg, with three on the power play despite missing 37 games this season, is unlikely to return unless there is a second round.
Bruins better, but …
The Bruins played a better game, but not for long.
The Wings got it turned around quickly, and a tally on one of the power plays in the second period might have led to a different game, even outcome.
When the Red Wings played their game and brought speed, they still looked like they could beat the Bruins.
Peaceable, but not meek
There were chances for the Wings to drop gloves and fight. There were chances to engage in ill-advised physical activity after whistles and they maintained their discipline.
But the Red Wings did have a response to the Bruins’ attempts at bullying and intimidation, and whether it was Smith standing up to Zdeno Chara at the end of the first, with both drawing roughing penalties, or Niklas Kronwall executing another devastating open-ice hit, they managed to stand up and get the Bruins to back off without hurting themselves with penalties.
The two Bruins power plays came on the slash to DeKeyser and roughing to Kyle Quincey, which were both reactions to letting opponents run to free, rather than “the physical stuff.”
The Red Wings provided an important, measured deterrent.