The body has rested and the skill is certainly there for the Red Wings to beat the Bruins on Saturday afternoon and send their best of seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series back to HockeyTown for a Game 6 - but has the psyche been bruised beyond repair?
|Boychuk and Bartkowski neutralized Bertuzzi (44) late in Game 4|
It was about this time last year when the same questions were being asked about the Toronto Maple Leafs in their first round matchup with the Beantown Brutes - and no one needs to be reminded of how that series played out...
...but we will anyway: Similar to this series, the Maple Leafs and Bruins split the first two games at TD Garden before Boston won two straight in Toronto - Game 4 in overtime, no less - but the 'Leafs took both Game 5 in Boston and Game 6 in Toronto to force a winner-take-all Game 7, setting up perhaps one of the most astounding and intense elimination matches in NHL history.
The final ten minutes of that Game 7 were so compelling and intense, that it encapsulates what the National Hockey League - and the Boston Bruins - are all about. That said, Bruins' fans don't need a repeat, at least the ones with weak hearts don't.
"We can learn a lot from last year. Obviously, you can look at it whichever way you want. It doesn't mean just because it's happened before it has to be the same thing," Julien said. "There are different situations all the time. We have yet to lose respect for that team we are playing against."
Bruins' Projected Lineup
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jarome Iginla
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith
Justin Florek - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson
Jordan Caron - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara -Johnny Boychuk
Matt Bartkowski - Kevan Miller
Torey Krug - Dougie Hamilton
“It’s a veteran group in here, an experienced group." said Merlot line centerman Gregory Campbell after the team's Friday skate. "I don’t think we were extremely happy with the effort that we gave in the first period."
"We wanted to come out a little bit harder, and credit to them - they came out hard and played well - but we knew we had more in the tank." Gregory continued, "So whether we won or lost the game, it was just more about us kind of giving everything that we had, and it was clear that we didn’t in the first period.”
By the same token, Red Wings' coach Mike Babcock is understandably unhappy with the result of Game 4, but he has to be pleased under that tough, I-look-like-I-could-be-Torey-Krug's-Dad exterior in regard to the way his game plan to limit Boston's playmaking ability by targeting their centermen and keeping them out of the middle of the ice has worked...
...unfortunately for him and the Red Wings, the Bruins have more than enough play makers on the wings and in their defensive pairings to pick up the slack.
Through four games, Detroit's structure has limited Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Carl Soderberg and Campbell to six points on one goal and five helpers, Krejci and Soderberg limited to an assist each and Campbell held pointless - but with a combined plus-four rating showing how deep the talent runs in Boston's structure.
Red Wings' Projected Lineup
Henrik Zetterberg - Pavel Datsyuk - Justin Abdelkader
Johan Franzen - Darren Helm - Daniel Alfredsson
Johan Franzen - Darren Helm - Daniel Alfredsson
Tomas Tatar - Riley Sheahan - Gustav Nyquist
Drew Miller - Luke Glendening - David Legwand
Niklas Kronwall - Brendan Smith
Kyle Quincey - Dan DeKeyser
Jakub Kindl - Brian Lashoff
Daniel Alfredsson, Detroit's regular season points leader, returns to the ice for the Red Wings after a two-game absence with lingering back issues - in fact, the same issues that caused him to miss six games in January plus the Red Wings' regular season finale - and although he hasn't recorded a point in the series, he is traditionally a high-volume point producer in the playoffs with 100 in 123 career playoff games.
You know things are tough when you have to count on a 41 year old winger to try and provide an offensive spark, especially for a team that features the stylings of a Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, plus the try-hard efforts of Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader, but with just four goals in as many games, it's not difficult to imagine why Detroit is down 3-1 in this series.
With Alfredsson returning to the lineup, it appears that the Todd Bertuzzi experiment may be over - the big winger did some nice things for the Red Wings in the first period on Thursday night, but got rag-dolled repeatedly in the final frame and overtime whenever he tried to set up in front of the Boston net, Johnny Boychuk clearing Bertuzzi out more than a few times, and cleaning his clock once or twice for good measure.
Jonas Gustavsson is scheduled to start between the pipes for Detroit, as regular starter Jimmy Howard is still locked in a struggle with a particularly nasty strain of the flu bug and hasn't skated at all since Thursday morning, but will be dressed as an emergency backup to Gustavsson.