Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 04/06/10 at 03:49 PM ET
Detroit Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock took part in a media conference call today,
Q. Obviously now moving on to your next season, was there a transition for you moving from the international stage at the Olympics back to the regular season grind of the NHL and trying to get into a playoff spot?
COACH BABCOCK: None. No. I mean, we played the next night in Colorado. We needed the win. We talked about it. We found a way to win. We’ve been real fortunate in the fact that we were able to get on a great run.
I really thought probably after the Olympic break that if we could ? we’d be playing Chicago on Sunday for hopes of getting in the playoffs. So our run’s been fantastic. It’s great to be in.
Now we can make prudent decisions with our players. If guys needed to be ? need to take a day off because they’ve got a pull or their shoulder’s bad, we can give them that. We couldn’t over this stretch. We just had to find a way to get points.
Q. In some ways, I guess, those injuries may pay off in the fact that those guys are rested now, they are back for the playoffs, and that rest has got to be good for you guys, considering the long runs you’ve had the last couple of years.
COACH BABCOCK: Well, we really think that the runs we’ve had over the last few years and our summers being short and our ability to train hasn’t been as good. And I thought that affected us early and maybe helped with all the injuries we had. Seeing that, just like you said, I believe that some of the guys that haven’t played much hockey, whether that be Zetterberg had a good break. Williams had a good break. Flippula. Lilja. And Kronwall. Who else am I missing? Cleary. Lots of guys have had, Franzen, lots of guys have had long, long layoffs, they should be a lot fresher.
Q. I’m wondering, yeveryone’s talked about a post-Olympic hangover. But you guys, if anything, might have had a pre-Olympic hangover. With eight guys going to the games and having so much work to do in the standings, were you concerned going into the Olympics about kind of the direction of your team?
COACH BABCOCK: We’re always concerned. Yet, we really felt that our team was so beat up. At one point we had eight very, very good hockey players out for a long period of time. We just felt if we could buy time and get them back and not lose touch you’ve got to give our guys on the farm a lot of credit. They kept us in touch with the other teams and gave us a chance to respond post-Olympics.
Now, a couple of things happened to us over the Olympics. Pavel’s team lost out early. And the Swedes lost out early, giving them a little more rest than maybe some of the teams that would have went to a final. So that was a positive situation, even though in their mind probably negative, it was good for our team being self-serving. We’ve been able to get on a run. We’ve got a proud group here. I think we easily could have been derailed if we didn’t have good leadership and our best players didn’t care a lot. But they found a way to dig in. The great thing about the playoffs is we all know everybody has a shot now. It’s as tight as it’s ever been top to bottom. And in particular in the west, I think there’s a lot of parity. It should be fun.
Q. You mentioned it was good for so many of your guys to get breaks because of, well, recovering from injury and stuff. Given the toll of the long seasons and then having the Olympics thrown into that, too, how does that kind of factor into your team’s level of play right now?
COACH BABCOCK: Well, I think there’s no question about it. Year after year after year, when teams get a lot longer to train, we went to the Final Four three years in a row, and obviously the Final two years in a row. That wears on you. I don’t care who you are. You don’t have the same time to recover. Guys are training full out, and you’re still playing games. It makes a huge difference in, I think, the pop in your legs and your overall drive, it makes it hard.
In saying all that, I think our guys, you know, are engaged now. I think they’ve done a pretty good job. And it will be interesting to see how we do.
Q. Finally, from a personal perspective, I mean, you basically probably haven’t had a break in I can’t imagine how long. Going ? finishing the Olympics, going right to the next day back at it, how do you feel? Have you felt that you’ve had a chance to rest up at all? Do you feel you could use that?
COACH BABCOCK: There’s no question after the Olympics, I think we had four games in six nights or something ridiculous. You know, I’m no different than anyone else. You’re worn right out. We had one of the best days off of the year yesterday. We got in. We had a game in Philly.
We got in early. The kids are off from school. It was sunny in Detroit. It was fantastic. And what happens when you’re coaching your own team and you’re coaching the Olympic team is you don’t take any time away from your own team, you take time away from your family.
There’s no question I’m not running for Parent of the Year this year. I haven’t been at all my kids’ events or done that, like I’d like to do. Dropped the ball that way.
It’s been a great year for my family, and they got to go to the Olympics. And saying that, though, being fresh is so important. One thing Scotty Bowman always said to me: Mike, you have to make sure you’re fresh. Make sure you’re fresh. So I’ve done everything I can to get propped up and get ready to go and we’re looking for a run.
Q. What have you done to keep fresh?
COACH BABCOCK: I think just exercise is a huge part and try to get as much sleep as you possibly can. I’m no different than the players. I’ve had a few runs myself at the Stanley Cup and understand what it’s all about and how exciting it is, and that gets your juices going.
Q. Mike, first question is: What was the value of Jimmy Howard and Todd Bertuzzi’s play in the first part of this season when you had the challenges of injuries and trying to maintain some sort of playoff level there?
COACH BABCOCK: Well, I think the big thing is obviously Howie’s done a real good job for us. Howie is a rookie in the league who at 26 years of age now has found a game, and a steady game each and every night and given us solid goaltending.
As far as Bert goes, we signed him a little later in the year last year. He’s come in here, I think he’s got 18 goals. He’s played at a pretty good level. He’s played way better here in the last little while, just being a good, solid net presence, taking care of the puck. And the big thing is Bert, in his career, he hasn’t won yet.
He’s been in a lot of situations and hasn’t won. He believes this is an opportunity to win. And in order to win you’ve got to be patient. You’ve got to take care of the puck, and be solid defensively. These are huge challenges for a guy who hasn’t been known for those things in the past.
But he wants to be known for them, and so it’s a good opportunity for him here.
Q. Speaking of Jimmy Howard, how have you prepared him for the playoff run?
COACH BABCOCK: I think a big part of that is just his preparation will be no different than it’s been all year, getting ready.
Now, the nerves and people always say there’s playoff games. It’s like a playoff ? it’s not like a playoff game until it’s a playoff game. You never know what’s between a guy’s ears until he’s been through it and survived.
The other thing I would say, there’s lot of goalies that have been good one year in this league. But one year doesn’t measure it, it’s 10 and 12 years. We’re all going to watch.
And seeing that, our goaltending coach, whether it was Manny Legace, where we won a President’s Trophy. The following year we had, Hasek went to Final Four. And then we had Osgood as the starter, won a Stanley Cup. And Osgood again went to Game 7 of the final. And this year with Howard, he’s had multiple personalities and multiple styles and has done a good job with all of them. And I think Osgood has been a real support for Howie as well. So we think we’re coached right up in that situation.
Q. It’s looking like you’re going play Vancouver, Chicago, Phoenix in the first round. Of those three teams, which ones do you see the most, which one keeps you up at night the most?
COACH BABCOCK: They all do. They’re all real good teams. And what I always look forward, to tell you the truth, is travel. How do you have the least amount of travel? If you look at the west, from the top to the bottom, unless you play Chicago, you’re flat out traveling across the country.
So there’s no sense worrying about that. The other thing is, it’s mixed up at the top and it’s mixed up at the bottom. How do you know? And we got a game against Columbus tomorrow. We’re doing everything we can to prepare for that game and to take a step. We spent a lot of time today with video going over basically how we play in all situations. We’re basically having a systems review these last few games preparing for the playoffs like we normally would, and that’s what we’re trying to do so we can be successful.
Q. You touched a little on Jimmy Howard. How has this boy handled success, and are you pleased with the way he’s done so?
COACH BABCOCK: I think so. When you’re starting out, you’re hoping to get into the league, his first few games weren’t very darned good. And at the start of the year, we were probably looking at our situation saying, geez, we probably should have kept Conklin, to a point where now they’re talking about him potentially as a candidate of Rookie of the Year.
As anything, I think it’s really important, the successes in your life, you enjoy it, but you keep it in perspective.
What keeps you in this league is a little fear that somebody is going to take your job and keep driving every day and keep trying to get better. Howie seems to let the bad goals roll off his back. Comes to work each and every day. I’ve been impressed with the kid. Ten years from now we’ll evaluate where his career has gone. But in the meantime, he’s doing a real good job.
Q. How difficult is the journey to winning a Stanley Cup?
COACH BABCOCK: Well, I think it’s the mere fun, beyond belief. Not only ? you gotta get lucky. What I mean by that is you gotta get lucky with injuries. You can’t get hurt.
Second thing is, I believe you need good goaltending and good specialty teams. And you’ve got to catch fire. Sometimes you’re not great in the early rounds, but you gotta catch fire. And there’s got to be a belief system, and you need role players to step up and your best players to be good.
It’s a great, great trophy. It’s the summer of your life when you get to touch that thing and get your name put on that thing and share it with your family. So it’s a prize worth chasing. It’s hard to win, which makes it so special.
It’s something you’ve got to do together as a team. But she’s a battle. And yet we’re all pumped up ready to go. We’re seeing if we don’t have a shot.
Q. Is it important to keep the guys loose, Mike, and if so what do you do?
COACH BABCOCK: The big thing here is we just do what we do here. Our guys have been through it a number of times. They understand. We have a veteran team. Probably the most experienced team in the last ? no question about it, as far as overall wins and playoffs. We’ve been through, like I said, the Final Four and then two Stanley Cup Finals the last couple of years. So we understand what it takes. In saying that, we’re like everyone else, we’ll be a little nervous, which is a great thing. Without nerves, you don’t get jacked up and you wouldn’t be in the game.
Q. I wanted to ask about Nick Lidstrom’s season. At the beginning of the year, I think there was a thought that at 40, maybe Nick started to slow down a little bit. Got off to a slow start. But obviously he’s picked it up and been the Nick of old. Could you discuss where he’s at now?
COACH BABCOCK: Well, every year I’ve been here, Nick hasn’t been as good at the beginning as he has been at the end. So that’s no change. In saying that, this year, because of the lineup he played with, we played a different game. All we do is chip it and flip it and chase it. We never had it.
And when you’re the kind of player he is, it’s nice to have some skill to play with and have an opportunity to have the puck. Because we’re so injured on the back, we overplayed guys. And he was one of them. And at 40 years of age, especially in the early going in the season, you don’t need to be overplayed.
So, you know, it’s just one of those situations. Nick is, I think, the elite of the elite of all time. He’s a great two-way defenseman. He understands how the game is to be played. He knows when he should jump offensively. And he’s got the unbelievable stick defensively.
To me, he’s the supreme leader. He’s a quiet, confident man who goes about his business professionally each and every day. And to me a big part is leadership is modeling. That’s what he does both on and off the ice for our team.
Thanks to NHL PR for the transcript.
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