DETROIT — When the Red Wings’ dressing room opened after practice at Joe Louis Arena Monday, there was only one burning question — what was defenseman Brendan Smith thinking when he elected to take on Zdeno Chara, the Bruins mammoth captain, at the end of the first period of Game 2 Sunday afternoon?
Chara, all 6 feet 9 inches of him, seemed amused more than anything by the whole exchange. Smith was attempting to spark something in his own team.
“It’s playoff time and things like that happen,’’ said Smith. “We know how the Bruins play. They want to be physical and create all those scrums. Something we don’t need is all those roughing penalties. I don’t remember us having four roughing penalties this year so that’s something we have to stay away from. We’re effective in our style of game. Coming back to play at home, it’s going to help us out a lot.’’
Smith said it’s common knowledge Chara and his teammates are trying to get the Red Wings off their game and on Sunday, it worked. Smith said that Tuesday night, when the best-of-seven series resumes for Game 3, it will be different because they will be turning the other cheek.
“Obviously, [Chara’s] trying to intimidate everybody, just like their whole team is,’’ Smith said. “You see [Shawn] Thornton kind of running around. [Brad] Marchand is trying to agitate. That’s what they’re doing. If you don’t get intimidated and you let it happen and get out of the situation, it’s going to help us out in the end. You’ve got to be disciplined. If you retaliate, you end up in the box. There’s no point in me being in the box for anything like that.’’
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said it was pretty clear Smith needs to focus on his on-ice game and not engage in extracurricular activity.
“I guess the way I look at it is, if you’re a really good speaker, you should find employment speaking,’’ said Babcock. “If you’re a real good fighter, you should find employment fighting. So, you walk into a bar and there’s this beautiful young gal standing next to this 6-foot-5-inch monster who you know fights for a living and you’re the best pool player in the bar, are you going to play pool, or are you going to fight?
“Figure it out, seems simple to me. One guy is 6 foot 9, one guy’s not. What would be the good decision? All I am saying is you should do what you do well.’’
The Red Wings plan to employ the same skating game that earned them a 1-0 win in Game 1 last Friday.
“We’ve got to make sure we use our speed and play fast,’’ said Smith. “I don’t think they can stay with us if we do that. They want to wear us down in different ways. You know how they want to wear us down. I think if we use our skills to our advantage, we’re going to wear them down in an even bigger sense.’’
And if the Bruins attempt to bait them into retaliation, Smith said from now on the Red Wings will be keeping their tempers in check.
“Something we have to do is stay out of the box,’’ he said. “That’s what they want. They want to engage in that stuff and if we stay out of it, we’re going to play really well.’’
Smith said in retrospect, he would have handled the Chara situation differently.
“Sometimes you’re trying to back up some of your teammates and maybe even take care of yourself,’’ he said. “But there’s no point in us doing that and I probably should’ve backed out but sometimes it’s just the heat of the moment and that happens in playoff hockey. Next time, we’re going to just try to stay away from that because we want to play our game. 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 the series.’’
The best example of restraint has been center Pavel Datsyuk, who has not engaged with Marchand despite Marchand’s repeated attempts — via crosschecks to the back.
“Look at [Datsyuk], he’s playing really well lately and the reason is, he’s staying out of that stuff. Obviously they’re going to try to get under his skin because he’s the best player in the world. Guys like [Brad] Marchand, that’s their job. I think that’s something we have to follow.’’Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Elle1027.