When the Detroit Red Wings study the Boston Bruins, they see in the Bs what they used to be.
When the Wings were dominating the NHL a decade ago, winning the Stanley Cup in 2007-08 and reaching Game 7 of the Cup final the following spring, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were as good a 1-2 punch down the middle as any center-ice duo in the league, and though he was nearing the end of his career, Nicklas Lidstrom was still a dominant defenseman.
The Bruins are in town Tuesday to face the Wings at Little Caesars Arena, and when Detroit coach Jeff Blashill looks as Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, Boston’s top two centers, he sees Zetterberg and Datsyuk in their primes.
“I just think Bergeron’s got to be one of the best players in the league right now,” Blashill told Detroitredwings.com. “He plays a two-way game, never gets scored on and produces a lot of offense. That’s why that team is as good as they are.
“We talk about it, that’s what Zetterberg and Datsyuk did here for years. When you have centermen that are as complete as those guys have been in their careers, and as good as Bergeron is right now, that’s big-time winning hockey.
“They’ve got a lot of other good players, but when you have centermen that play – and David Krejci’s a heck of a player, too, and he plays a complete game. So you’ve got two guys up the middle that play real complete games. That’s how you win games.”
Likewise, though they accomplish their means in an entirely opposite fashion, Blashill sees Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who will play his 1400th NHL game on Tuesday, as filling a parallel role on the Boston defense to what Lidstrom delivered all those years in Detroit.
“They’re similar type players in a sense of the impact they’ve had on their teams over a long period of time,” Blashill said. “They’re both two of the best players at their position to play. Certainly Chara has done it differently, has a different skill set.
“I also know first-hand with having (former Boston assistant coach) Doug Houda on staff, the approach that he takes and how important it is for him to continue to play and find every way possible to be the best player he can as he continues to move up in age. I think it’s unreal.
“When I watch their team play, if you take him out of the lineup, that’s a huge loss. That says a ton for somebody that’s played as many games as he has, played as many hard games as he has and is at at the age he is. He’s not a replaceable part.”
It speaks volumes about where the Wings are at today that Zetterberg, 37, continues to their best player and most counted-on performer, nearly a decade after he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the 2007-08 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Blashill has advised Wings center Dylan Larkin, 21, to look upon Bergeron as someone he should seek to emulate on the ice.
“It seems like he never stops skating his entire shift,” Larkin said. “He’s always moving, he’s always in the right spot. I’m sure his wingers love playing with him. He makes the players around him better.”
Game Time Decision
Only recently returned after missing six games due to a lower-body injury, oft-injured forward Darren Helm’s status is again in question due to a lower-body ailment.
“Helm will be a game-time decision,” Blashill said. “I anticipate everybody else being available.”
Helm collected a goal and four assists in Detroit’s last two games.
Jimmy Howard will get the nod in goal after Petr Mrazek started the first three games out of the all-star break. It will be Howard’s first work since he was chased against Chicago, allowing three goals on nine shots in just 8:47. He’s 0-4 in his last four starts and hasn’t won since Jan. 5.
“Petr played really well a few games in a row, I played him a number of games in a row,” Blashill said. “I’m going to go to Howie here tonight. I’ve got belief in both of them.
“We’re going to need both to be real good here down the stretch. We’ve talked lots, we need elite goaltending and we’re going to need that from both of them.”
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