Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill simply describes smart, responsible defensive hockey as winning hockey. It certainly created a winning formula on Wednesday at a place where many a Detroit nightmare has unfolded – Boston’s TD Garden.
Marc Staal’s third-period goal provided the difference in a 2-1 over the Boston Bruins. It was Detroit’s second road victory at Boston since 2014.
The victory was also the 3,000th in franchise history. Detroit’s first win was a 1-0 shutout of the Chicago Blackhawks on November 24, 1926.
Five takeaways from this historic triumph.
Red Wings Shut The Door
Good teams are able to successfuly close out these types of low-scoring, tight road contests. Blashill allowed that there was a time when he didn’t feel his team would’ve displayed the backbone and fortitude to close out this style of victory. And that time wasn’t all that long ago.
“I would even say a week ago I don’t think we played as mature as we did tonight, to be honest with you,” Blashill said.
The Bruins lead the NHL with 36.8 shots on goal per game but the Red Wings set a tone by limiting Boston to eight first-period shots.
“From a mindset, from a defensive standpoint, with the exception of a little bit in the second period when we left the puck in our zone when we should’ve got it out, I thought we did a much better job of playing good defensively, of managing the puck at our line, of getting it in at their line and overall being pretty disciplined,” Blashill said.
Greasing Up A Red Wings Victory
Captain Dylan Larkin echoed his coach’s sentiments. Larkin described the victory as a greasy win.
“I think it was a win that wasn’t the prettiest,” Larkin said. “We defended well. [Goalie Alex Nedeljkovic] played great, but we didn’t get much offensively. We didn’t get many looks on the power play.
“The third period was a lot of sticking around and a lot of killing. We did the job. We got the two points. It wasn’t pretty but it was the kind of win we needed. It feels great to grind one out and get a greasy win here.”
While solid, Nedeljkovic wasn’t required to make any spectacular, game-saving stops like the ones he pulled off a week ago in a 4-2 victory over St. Louis to launch Detroit’s current three-game winning streak.
“Certainly Alex did a good job,” Blashill said. “The game against St. Louis he stole us a game. That wasn’t the case here tonight.
“I thought we played very good defensively, much better than we have.”
Funky Cold Zadina
Opening the scoring for Detroit, Filip Zadina netted his second goal in 13 games and first in five contests. In staying with theme of the victory, the creation of his opportunity came from sound defensive play.
Playing on the defensive side of the puck, Zadina ended up forcing a netural-zone turnover from Bruins forward Charlie Coyle. He took the puck to the net and scored.
“I thought he played hard,” Blashill said. “That’s the bottom line.
“For him to be a successful player in this league he’s gotta play extremely hard. He’s gotta be hard on the puck, forecheck hard, win puck battles and I think he’s done a pretty good job of that the last two games.”
Red Wings Taking Advantage Of Shorthanded Bruins
The Bruins were without coach Bruce Cassidy (COVID-19 protocols). Joe Sacco coached in his place. Boston was also missing top-line forward Brad Marchand. He was serving the first of a three-game NHL suspension for slew footing. since 2016, only the Edmonton Oilers tandem of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have accounted for more points than the 448 compiled by Marchand.
“They’re missing a hell of a player,” Blashill said. “He’s a lot of times their engine and he’s a hell of a player. But with that said, I don’t want to take anything away from our players. I think we did a really good job.”
Staal was sent to the penalty box in the third period, creating a 5-on-3 power player for 1:01 from which Boston accounted for its only goal. The Bruins were being assessed a delayed penalty later in the frame. Staal took advantage of the delayed penalty rule to dive down low and score a back-door goal for the victory.
It was his first game winner as a Red Wing and Staal’s first goal for Detroit since April 4, 2021 against Tampa Bay.
“He’s got great poise as a person,” Blashill said of Staal. “He’s calm. He keeps our group focused but in a good way. And then he’s a big body who’s smart, knows how to defend.
“I thought he played a real good game overall.”