There wasn’t much room for anyone, anywhere. Shots were blocked, lanes closed off, chances muted. The Bruins dumped and chased, lost the puck and found it (too rarely), and didn’t do much with the few chances when it was on their sticks.
It wasn’t just them. Detroit had some of the same offensive difficulties. That was because the two defenses were, for the most part, on point, with tight play and tight checking leading to few true scoring opportunities.
In the end, it took a slick move by Pavel Datsyuk to yield the first — and only — goal of the night. Datsyuk, whose line was matched up against that of Patrice Bergeron all night, scored his goal with just 3:01 to go. Detroit’s 1-0 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals made the Red Wings 4-1 against the Bruins this season.
As Niklas Kronwall described it, “The puck was probably 4 or 5 feet behind him and he was able to pick it up, do things that no one else can do. We’ve seen it before and he did it again.”
Still, despite having to scratch a pair of key defenders, the Bruins’ defense wasn’t really an issue Friday. It was their offense, which didn’t put nearly enough pressure on Jimmy Howard and couldn’t find the back of the net.
“I think we just have to figure out the offense,” said David Krejci, whose line mustered just six shot attempts. “They have a good team, fast and skilled forwards. I thought we did a pretty good job of playing pretty good defense against those guys.
“But on the other hand, we’re a pretty good team as well. We can put the puck in the net. I didn’t feel like we had that many scoring chances today.”
They didn’t, though they ended up with 25 shots on goal to Detroit’s 24. The Red Wings had 19 attempts blocked (to 11 for the Bruins) and missed the net on 11 others.
“We’re used to playing tight games, and we’ve been there before,” Patrice Bergeron said. “So we’ve just got to manage plays and make sure we score when we have those chances.”
Part of the solution could be holding the puck longer, knowing that they had more time than they thought they did. As Krejci said, “I feel like we have to go really deep and we hold onto the puck, then we will have some more time on the breakouts. But we didn’t do that.”
“It was a tight checking game, but nonetheless, I think everybody’s got to find a way to create more and that’s going to be the challenge in this series with two teams playing really tight,” coach Claude Julien said. “So it’s about everybody working a little harder and then gaining your space and doing what you have to do here.
“But it’s a long series, we predict. If you look at tonight, it’s probably a good indication of that.”
Some of the best opportunities for the Bruins came from somewhat unexpected sources, like the shot by Justin Florek with six minutes to go, with Florek trying to go high glove-side. But nothing came of it.
Perhaps their best chance of the first two periods came at 10:45 of the second, with the fourth line on the ice, Jordan Caron and Shawn Thornton near the net. But Caron was unable to corral the puck in front.
The Bruins struggled through the second, though they didn’t allow a shot on goal through the first seven minutes of the period. They seemed to spend most of the time in their defensive zone, and yet they allowed just five shots on goal. That was because the Bruins blocked 10 shots in the period, with the Red Wings missing the net six times.
Tuukka Rask made a brilliant stop on Darren Helm at 2:41 of the third. After giving up a rebound, Helm put the puck on net, with Rask barely making the kick save with the toe of his right skate. It was the closest the Red Wings had come to beating Rask, until Datsyuk did.
“Eventually it came down to whoever was going to score that one goal,” Zdeno Chara said. “It was a lot of battle, the goalies were very good, and there were some chances on both sides. Eventually, it went for them. It’s going to be an even series.”
That is likely to be true. But for now, the loss puts added pressure on the Bruins on Sunday. While no Game 2 is a must-win, the Bruins need to come out with a different kind of performance to change their fortunes.
They need to find offense, and they need to find it quickly.
“It’s just one game,” Krejci said. “We have to play, obviously, way better. Look at the video [on Saturday], make some adjustments. The next game’s going to be important. It’s a big difference if you go to Detroit 1-1 or down, 2-0. We have to do everything we can to get a win on Sunday.”