April 21, 2014 at 1:00 am

Gregg Krupa

Red Wings send message they won't back down from Bruins' bullying

Justin Abdelkader checks Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton in the first period Sunday. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)

Detroit — Brendan Smith did precisely what he should have done against Zdeno Chara at the 20-minute mark of the first period in Game 2.

Smith played it perfectly, and accomplished a good deal.

That is not exactly the popular appraisal.

Moreover, many analyses are that the Bruins got the Red Wings out of their game by provoking them in Game 2.


The Red Wings got themselves out of their game by not taking care of the particulars of their business, as they did with such apparent ease in Game 1.

Smith did exactly what he should, along with Justin Abdelkader and Niklas Kronwall, who also showed enough physical toughness in the face of aggression and intimidation from the Bruins to make their highly touted opponents understand they can play their tough game. But the Red Wings have some answers.

One answer came in Game 1, when the Red Wings simply executed an outstanding coach’s game plan and skated right by the Bruins to win it on Pavel Datsyuk’s wizardry and Jimmy Howard’s fine play.

Another answer came amid the losing effort of Game 2.

After being plastered against the boards a few times by the head-hunting Bruins and watching them do the same thing to Datsyuk, as well as Milan Lucic’s heinous assault on Danny DeKeyser in Game 1, Smith decided Chara should know there might be consequences.

And trust this: Smith is less afraid of Chara than all the folks quivering at the site of him telling Chara the bill might be due right then.

Smith executed the proposition perfectly.

He made sure Chara dropped his stick when he dropped his stick. He waited for Chara to drop his gloves, and when a linesman decided it was all too much staging for a fight rather than fighting — especially with time expired in the first period — there was no fight.

Smith gambled, but he gambled smart.

He made sure he would not cost his team by going to the box alone; waiting to make sure Chara was coming along, before fully engaging.

And while Smith would sit in the box for two minutes at the start of the second period, the cost to the Bruins was greater. They lost Chara for two.

Then, 48 seconds into the matching minors for roughing, Kronwall lined up Reilly Smith. Smith was made to understand the full meaning of the verb “Kronwalled.”

It was not a fight. It was a hit, and it was clean. It also was violent.

Message sent

Kronwall sent a message for the Red Wings in the same way Smith had.

Do what you do. Fine, we do what we do.

Later, with Brad Marchand crashing the Wings crease and inflicting himself on a prone Howard, Abdelkader swung into action.

Diving into the pile, the 6-foot-1, 219-pound Abdelkader wedged Marchand off Howard and began to give him “what for” when the officials got things settled down.

Marchand now knows while he may continue the pesky play for which the Bruins pay him, and which helped win the 2011 Stanley Cup, there might be consequences — even from the Red Wings.

The Red Wings should not try to beat up the Bruins. They should not eschew their disciplined, fast game and get bogged down with Boston’s physicality.

They should avoid the nonsense that occurs after whistles, the scrums that are wasted precious energy, at best.

But Smith, Kronwall and Abdelkader were all plenty useful, and it cost the Red Wings nothing — no need to kill a penalty, no need for medical treatment in the dressing room.

Of what use was it? Deterrence.

The Red Wings after Darren McCarty, Brendan Shanahan, Martin Lapointe and Joe Kocur do not have much of it. It is tough to find a pugnacious character who can skate well enough offensively and defensively to land a regular spot in their lineup.

Just ask Jordin Tootoo.

Pick their spots

So the Red Wings who can, do.

But they must pick their spots and execute their particular brand of deterrence carefully.

That has nothing to do with “playing the Bruins kind of game.” It is the Red Wings kind of game: speed, skill, enough fortitude to execute all the details of their meticulous plan and enough toughness to defeat big, physical teams in the playoffs.

“Sometimes you’re trying to back up some of your teammates and maybe even take care of yourself, in a sense,” Brendan Smith said.

“It’s a series to win. It’s not a UFC match out there. We’re not trying to fight each other. We’re going out there to put pucks in the net and win that series.

“You’ve got to be disciplined. That is one of the biggest things about hockey, if you retaliate, you end up in the box.”

And, Smith well understands what the Bruins are attempting. He said he might be even more cautious, next time.

“Obviously, they try to intimidate me and try to get under my skin and make sure that I take penalties,” he said.

“You watch Pavel. They’re always trying to crosscheck him in the back. They’re trying to target anyone, get anyone off their game.”

And the Bruins now know the Red Wings have a response. And the Bruins know it is even possible for the Red Wings to have their response, at times, without coming off their game.

It is not Gordie Howe’s lightning-quick, brutal elbows. It is not Shanahan or McCarty’s fists.

But it is something.

And when they combine it with a meticulous execution of their game plan and bring their speed, the Red Wings have a lot more than for what many observers give them credit.