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Wings Get a Bruising in Beantown, Lose 8-2

League’s best line proves too much for young Wings team

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Boston Bruins Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Wings came into Boston for this surprise matinee game still looking for their first win despite promising efforts in their previous 4 games. Jonathan Bernier drew his second start of the season and was matched up against Tuukka Rask. In contrast to Detroit’s start Boston was looking to win it’s fourth game in a row.

The Wings came into the game with the same lineup from the game against Toronto on Thursday. The obvious pregame focus for the Wings in this one was attempting to limit the Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak combination who have combined for 22 points already this season. The Bruins lack much punch in their lineup behind these three and the Wings had a good chance at finding a victory if they could contain the trio, but were they up to the task?

1st Period

The Bruins opened by matching the Bergeron line against the Larkin, Mantha, Nyquist line for the Wings, interesting to see if this would be a common matchup throughout, certainly a good trial for Larkin and company on two-way play to keep up with the league’s best line. An early chance was had by Nielsen on a puck that found him at the top of the crease but he was unable to get enough on it and Abdelkader couldn’t get to the follow-up loose puck first and the Bruins cleared it.

Sulak took a sizeable hit from Wagner chasing an errant pass back to his own corner, but he was no worse for wear afterwards. Nyquist got himself a partial break in on the net off the left side and attempted to beat Rask with a shot to the short side from the faceoff dot but Rask was up to the challenge. Shortly after Pastrnak came close on a dish to the slot that he didn’t get enough of to beat Howard. Already in this game there was a sense of just holding on when that line was on the ice for the Bruins.

The Bertuzzi, Athanasiou, Vanek line produced a good shift near the midway point of the opening period putting together a chance where Bertuzzi slid a puck across to Hronek who jumped in the rush. Hronek had Rask spread out but couldn’t beat him as Rask got enough of the shot to force it wide.

The Larkin line had a shift away from the Bergeron line where they were able to keep some sustained offensive zone time culminating with a good chance by Nyquist on a shot from the high slot that did not find the back of the net. On the shift immediately after Athanasiou chased a puck to Boston the corner where he had the defenseman beat but then pulled up to a full stop to allow the defenseman to the puck first. It stuck out as a play made for no other reason than to avoid a hit. The Bruins had their first real pressure in awhile immediately following that play, not that the play was the cause of the pressure.

Late in the period Hronek almost got himself caught too far up the ice as a stretch pass for Pastrnak narrowly missed but he had a clean break if the puck got to him. Shortly after Pastrnak made a rush down the left wing and got himself in shooting position at the left faceoff dot as he skated past Larkin. He beat Bernier to the far corner on a good shot, 1-0 Boston. Hicketts as noted in the broadcast could have moved his stick into better position especially with a shooter like Pastrnak,

As the period waned down some unpleasantness was had between Larkin and Acciari after Larkin took a hit. He tried to go back at Acciari afterwards, likely frustrated by giving up the goal shortly before as well. Acciari tried to draw Larkin into a fight and upon viewing the replay it was clear why as Larkin had given him a quick jab to the face beforehand. Not a great finish to the period for Larkin as he put the Wings down a man heading into the 2nd period.

All in all the Wings had a good period excluding the last couple minutes, outshooting the Bruins 12-8 in the period. The results were not in their favour despite the good showing but that can happen when you give a player like Pastrnak just a little space.

Rasmussen looks to be playing on the perimeter a lot and and failed to use his large frame to his advantage on board battles. His whole line however with Nielsen and Abdelkader was flat throughout the period. On the other hand Bertuzzi looked effective especially on plays distributing the puck, doing subtle things like passing against the grain of the play and looking off his passes. Hicketts appears to have gone to the Kronwall school of visor wearing with it barely protecting his forehead, always thought this was strange for players who have always worn one.

2nd Period

The Wings were able to kill off Larkin’s penalty to open the period without the Bruins generating anything of real danger. The Wings seemed disjointed early on in the period not able to connect on passes. Rasmussen despite his status as a winger on his line seemed to take a decent share of faceoffs to this point.

The Wings lined up for a faceoff to the right of Bernier at about the 5:00 minute mark of the period, Bergeron won it straight back to McAvoy who let a shot go immediately. The shot deflected off Jensen’s foot and fooled Bernier, 2-0 Boston. Not much to look at on this one other than Larkin perhaps not allowing Bergeron to win the faceoff so cleanly.

The next chance after the goal was a DeBrusk break on a puck that hopped over Hicketts stick at the offensive blueline leaving him flat footed against DeBrusk. Bernier came up with the save. It was noted in the broadcast that DeKeyser only played 1:30 in the first period and had not returned, another injury on the back end and the Wings are running low on options. Just as this was announced Larkin took a high stick to the face and left the ice but not the bench and soon returned to play.

Bernier came up with a series of good saves on the next shift including on a rebound on which Hronek lost inside position on his man out front allowing him to get to the rebound, but Bernier was able to make the save. A little later Bertuzzi found Athanasiou with a nice cross ice pass as he hit the offensive blue line but AA could not beat Rask short side and continues to be snake bit. On his next shift AA was on the receiving end of a pass entering the Bruins zone and chased the puck towards the goal retrieving it in time to try a between legs shot to the far corner, but again not going. Immediately after, DeBrusk was on the receiving end of a bouncing pass that he caught the Wings defense out of position on and had a clean break on Bernier. He cut across the net opening Bernier up and slid the puck between his legs where it bounced around before creeping across the goal line, 3-0 Bruins.

The Bruins continued to take it to the Wings and the Bergeron line looked to be proving too much for this young squad to handle. The Bruins got a few odd man opportunities including a DeBrusk shot off the post as the period reached the later stages. After the Wings got the puck back down towards the Bruins end Christoffer Ehn caught McAvoy with a high stick. The Bruins immediately went to work on the powerplay unloading a few shots on passes across the middle culminating with Pastrnak rifling a one timer from the right dot on Bernier scoring from the same position he did earlier albeit on a much different play, 4-0 Bruins. Jensen blocked a shot a few seconds earlier that hampered him from getting out to block the lane on the pass to Pastrnak.

The Wings very much looked like a team desperate for the period to end, finally receiving a reprieve on a tripping call to Boston after Athanasiou went down. The Wings had some good looks immediately, particularly Bertuzzi and they forced Marchand to clear the puck over the glass leading to a 1:30 5 on 3 to perhaps try and turn this game around. Unfortunately they put on somewhat of a clinic on how not to run a 5 on 3 with a lot of perimeter passing with nothing moving across the slot. They carried the 5 on 3 into the 3rd period to try and keep this score respectable.

The Bruins took over in this period despite the Wings controlling the puck for a good portion early on. The Wings problem was that while controlling the puck they didn’t generate enough good chances and gave the Bruins too many opportunities on miscues. Also standing out was the Wings inability to connect on their passes leading to turnovers throughout. The Wings got annihilated on faceoffs in this period as well. Looking for positives, Hicketts handles himself like a man twice his size in the corners and maybe something can be learned from the larger bodies from watching him.

3rd Period

The Wings opened the period with what was left of the 5 on 3. The Wings set up in the offensive zone as Nyquist slid a puck to Hronek at the point who unloaded a shot with Rasmussen parked in front of Rask. The shot ricocheted off Rask and found the back of the net for Hronek’s first career goal, 4-1.

The Wings appeared to find some push after the goal getting some shots through traffic on Rask and looking a little more dangerous. However it was short lived as Nielsen fanned on a shot from the high slot leading to a 2 on 1 for Marchand and Pastrnak on Hicketts. Some pretty passing between the two and Pastrnak whips one to the net that Bernier got a piece of but not enough and Pastrnak gets the hat trick, 5-1.

Both teams looked ready for this one to end after that one more than assuredly put this game away. Mantha picked up an inadvertent tripping call and the Bruins put out what could be called their “D” powerplay. The Wing took advantage instead however with Larkin jumping on a turnover at the Bruins blueline and used the defenseman as a screen as he curled the puck across the slot and beat Rask to the blocker side, 5-2.

The Bruins decided to respond by putting back out their top line and Bergeron made a nice feed across to Pastrnak who was inexplicably left alone with four Wings in the defensive zone against only the two Bruins. Bernier produced a big save on the chance though keeping the score within three. Larkin continued to push but was unable create goals on his own. However the Bruins were next to strike on a goal by Bjork as he came down the right wing and beat Bernier clean, 6-2.

The Wings got another powerplay opportunity in the second half of the final period and with the man advantage they did produce a few good looks. The unit was Rasmussen at net front with Hronek at the point and Nyquist, Larkin, and Bertuzzi making up the rest of the group. They did not however find a goal despite numerous good shots.

After the powerplay expired Mantha got into a tussle with McAvoy after he caught Mantha with a cross check in the face area. However Miller jumped in to stand for the more diminutive McAvoy, but McAvoy tried to once again jump in. Nobody really let the fisticuffs fly however and probably for the best with the game out of hand. The result was some lack lustre 4 on 4 action. The Bruins follow this action up with a pretty passing play off a Wings turnover with DeBrusk finishing it on a deflection and lickity split, 7-2 and maybe now it’s over?

No, just to deliver the point a little further after a standoff between Donato and Jensen the Bruins score one more by Kuraly on a powerplay with 2 seconds left ending it at 8-2, oy vey.

Wrapping Up

The Wings looked very much like a young group getting frustrated and losing hope because they can’t seem to find any goals. These games are going to happen to this team. They aren’t able to keep up with their lack of firepower, meaning the miscues they make have to be reduced or they will find themselves in a lot more games like this. Something positive to take here is this was a learning experience for the youth of the roster in what the best line in this league can do to you if given the opportunity.

Rasmussen disappointed in that for a player his size he was barely noticeable. It’s just been a clear indication of how difficult the jump is from juniors to the NHL. It is decision time soon for the Wings on him and it’s disappointing they can’t allow him to develop in the AHL similar to Zadina for a bit.

One player who looked good in this game was Bertuzzi who made several deft passes today and and is making the case to cement himself in the Top 6. Larkin also looked like a leader today during the tough times, as there was no dropoff in his game as the score became lopsided.

The Wings have a day to sit on this one before heading to Montreal to face a team closer to their calibre, hopefully some lessons were learned today.