Tomorrow night, the leagues popular Wednesday night rivalry will kick off with the Boston Bruins trying to beat the Detroit Red Wings at home. The Bruins will travel to the soon to be retired Joe Louis Arena for their final regular season game at the Wing’s long-loved and historic arena. It’s definitely an end of era, since the way things are working out in Detroit so far, it looks like the Red Wings’ amazing record of making 25 straight playoff appearances is probably coming to an end too in 2016-17 season.
So, Boston knows it has a chance to win, and these are the kinds of games that cannot be thrown away. Boston has a 23-8-5 record, with 51 points and is currently in second place in the Atlantic Division, only behind the Montreal Canadiens who have a dominant 60 points. Bruins star, Brad Marchand has averaged almost one point per game this year, posting 43 points, 17 goal and 26 assists in 46 games so far. Marchand has an amazing five-point effort on Saturday night with 2 goals and 3 assists in a 6-3 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on home ice.
Detroit on the other hand is struggling with a 18-19-6 record, holding 42 pts. They are coming off an uplifting 6-3 win against the Penguins in Pittsburgh but they’ll need to build on that. Star Dylan Larkin, along with Thomas Vanek, and Anthony Mantha are leading the team and are tied for most goals with 11 a piece, and eight other players on the Red Wings have scored nine goals or more this season, so they need to put that offense to better use and start collecting some more wins.
After going back and forth between wins and losses in their last seven games, the Bruins want to stick some wins together in a very busy week where they play four times in three different cities. So, it won’t be easy and they’ll have to just suck it up.
They kicked off the week on Monday pretty flat against the lowly New York Islanders with their star goalie, Tuukka Rask getting pulled for the second time in as many games against New York in what ended up being a 4-0 loss at TD Garden.
The Wings are only two points ahead of those very same Islanders which is basically a race for last place in the Eastern conference. The Buffalo Sabres divide the two teams and they’ve been in the basement for years.
When they played last, in late October, the Bruins narrowly beat the Red Wings 1-0 winning due to Rask’s 24 saves, and it’s been the only game between the two division rivals so far this year.
The Wing’s major issue has been goaltending as Jimmy Howard has only played 17 games. In late December, Howard was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. The former UMaine standout was playing really well before he got injured with a 1.96 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. So, with Howard out of the lineup, Petr Mrazek and Jared Coreau were left to pick up the slack and they have failed to do so. Both goalies have goals-against averages above three and that’s dismal. They are not giving their team a chance to win.
The wins against Pittsburgh and Montreal though, has raised their confidence level, proving to themselves that they can still beat championship teams, especially those who have given the Red Wings a lot of trouble in the last few years. It does give them some hope that their 25-season playoff streak could maybe go on for another year.
Their two home wins has given the Wings their first winning streak since Dec. 4-6 and has inched them closer to within four points of third-place Toronto Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division.
“There’s no question that we know where those teams are in the standings and so when you’re able to beat those teams – and I think in a lot of ways outplay them – you walk out and say ‘when we play the right way, we can be a really good hockey team,'” Said Wings coach Jeff Blashill to media.
“Now I think we know that but it certainly helps when you have the results.”
Now, they have to carry forward those results. Those wins won’t matter if they can’t beat the Boston Bruins at home.
“We all know where we are in the season and we all know how many points are left to play and we all know what it takes the last five years to get in,” said Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg. “We know how many games we have to win and how many we can lose.
“You don’t want to be on that team that doesn’t make it. We want to have a chance and we still have a chance, but we have to play the right away. We have good enough players that we can still make it, but we can’t get too carried away. It’s two wins and we haven’t had two wins (in a row) since October and that says a lot.
“Boston comes in next game so another tough opponent. We just got to keep doing these things and play well out there and then we have a chance at winning games.”
The Bruins are the ones who ended Detroit’s six-game winning streak on Oct. 29, have been cursed also by getting win-one-lose-one the past couple of weeks and are trying to shake it. Boston hasn’t won consecutive games in January at all, and has a unimpressive 3-4-1 record this month.
If the Red Wings can beat the Bruins tomorrow night, Blashill won’t consider the three-game winning streak will magically solve their problems but it will be a step in the right direction: up.
“I don’t look at it that way ever,” Blashill said. “We try to right the ship every single day. We try to get better every single day. We know we need to win hockey games at 100 percent, so it was a good win (over Montreal). We got two points.
“Now we’ve got a team that we’re chasing in our own division on Wednesday. So now we’ve got to go try and win a hockey game and the only way to do it is to play your best hockey. We’re going to have to make sure we get better from today until Wednesday and we’re going to have to come out with a great effort Wednesday.”
We think they will manage that effort.