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Final

Red Wings not able to overcome injuries, youth

There were numerous factors that derailed the Red Wings in their quest to beat the Bruins in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

One of them was a lack of consistency. Detroit had stretches of solid play during the five games, particularly in Game 1, but it couldn’t maintain them for any substantial length of time.

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One reason was the health of some key players. Captain Henrik Zetterberg, who had back surgery Feb. 21, returned to the lineup in Game 4 and was a force for two periods before running out of gas in the third and overtime.

Center Pavel Datsyuk was ailing and might need offseason surgery, said coach Mike Babcock after the Red Wings were eliminated Saturday afternoon by a 4-2 score at TD Garden.

Forward Daniel Alfredsson, 41, was battling back issues and missed a couple of games in the series.

Detroit’s young players, who were instrumental in securing the No. 8 seed, looked lost and out of synch.

All in all, the Wings didn’t push back against the Bruins. There wasn’t enough speed, enough heft, enough scoring, or enough contributions from special teams.

“I thought our penalty killing let us down,’’ said Babcock, whose team allowed six power-play goals in 16 opportunities in the series (62.5 percent kill rate). “It was so good all year and for whatever reason, we got ourselves rattled.’’

Detroit was penalized twice in the series for having too many men on the ice, including in the third period Saturday.

“Are we rattled? Are we nervous as kids? I don’t think we played up to our level,’’ said Babcock. “You want to be the best you can be and I didn’t think we were. We had lots of kids in this series who were important parts of our team and got us into the playoffs and they found out how hard it is.’’

Datsyuk led the offense with three goals — half his team’s output in the series — and two assists. The Red Wings averaged a paltry 1.2 goals per game.

As well as Datsyuk performed, Babcock said he was hindered.

“As good as Pavel was in this series, [his normal play] is a whole other level,’’ said the coach.

Of the talented younger forwards on the team — 24-year-old Gustav Nyquist, 24-year-old Luke Glendening, 23-year-old Tomas Tatar, and 22-year-old Riley Sheahan — Glendening was the only one to register a point in the series, the Red Wings’ only tally in a 4-1 loss in Game 2. When asked why his young forwards didn’t contribute more, Babcock said the postseason is a tough time for inexperienced players.

“I just think kids in general aren’t very successful at playoff time unless they are one of three on a line or the sixth D man,’’ said Babcock. “But when you’re counting on them, I think it’s hard for them. When you can surround them with a bunch of veterans, and then look after them, it’s a totally different thing. When you’re counting on them and they get [to the playoffs], they find out there’s no space. They wonder what’s going on, and instead of fighting through it, they start thinking too much and now they’re slow and now they’re not doing what they normally do and I thought that was for sure with our guys.’’

When the series started, there was a lot of confidence in the Red Wings’ dressing room. Babcock said he felt his team would be a tough out. That turned out not to be the case.

“We weren’t a tough out at all,’’ said Babcock. “We were good in Game 1. I thought we were good for a period and a half in Game 4. I actually thought we were pretty good in here in Game 2 in the second period. We got the [score] back to 2-1. To find out how good they are, you’ve got to push them. You go back and forth winning games to about [Game] 6 or 7. We never did that. You never know how good the other team is until you really push them.’’

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Elle1027.
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