Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 06/02/08 at 01:48 PM ET
Q. How did you sleep last night given what’s at stake tonight?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: Outstanding. Slept really good.
Q. Can you just talk about being in the moment and how locked-in your team is, because this city and the fans are planning a big party tonight, and how your team doesn’t get caught up in any of that?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: Well, what we have to rely on is the people in the room. The people outside of the room can’t hurt ya, but I don’t know how much they can help you. The guys gotta play. Keeping your emotions under control. Having a clear mind. Understanding your job, like we’ve done over and over and over again.
And to me, the reason you build a good foundation is so when you have the opportunities like this, you just do what you do. And we’ll talk about it again, like we do every night.
Q. Is Holmstrom playing or any other lineup changes?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: Yeah, there’s lineup changes. Holmstrom’s playing.
Q. The way the matchups went in the first couple of games, you made it clear you were going to play Zetterberg against Crosby, don’t know if he’s going to try to get away from that at all tonight. But how important is it for you just to maintain that because of how well it worked in the first couple?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: Well, once again, we’re going to do what we’re we do. We’ll have matchups, but we want our guys to play 40 seconds at a time. So if they’re doing something different, let’s not deviate and do something different. Let’s just do what we do.
So that will be a matchup that we’d like to get. It’s impossible for us to get it after the power play, because they don’t kill penalties. They come back next. So we’ll end up with Draper and Filppula and Drake. But the majority of the time we’ll be in a good situation to handle it. And yet if he wants to pull his people on and off the ice, he can avoid it, but they don’t get to play. So there’s two parts of matchups.
Q. I know you didn’t like it at the time, but in hindsight, being in this position in the last round and not prevailing, how much of a lesson or value is it going into tonight?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: I think any time you go through adversity and you’re able to overcome it, it’s a good thing and a good teacher for you. And yet, you gotta understand what made it happen last time and try to, like I said, do what we do so it doesn’t happen this time.
I think the big thing is we have an opportunity today. Both of us are playing one game. We’re not playing anything. We’re just playing one game. And we have a belief system that we’re going to find a way to win, and I’m assuming they do, too. And that’s what makes the sport tough.
Q. Can you go back to when you began in the game and what your perception of a European player was then and what the reality of it is now?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: Well, some of the ? I had a kid in Spokane, Igor Larionov ? sorry. What was his name? I’m trying to think of it. Dmitri Leonov. Sorry, my mistake. He was the hardest, the best two-way guy, the most competitive, best kid, unbelievable. Jan Hrdina played for me in Junior, and played fantastic. I’ve had a whole bunch of them in my career as players that have been fantastic. So to me it’s a global game.
And I think sometimes it’s skewed because the reporting is in two places, strongly in Canada and then here. I think when the Swedes won the Olympics not that long ago and won the world championship that same year, I think that tells you something about hockey. The Czechs did it not too long ago, too; won the World Championship, I think won the Olympics, and won the World Junior all in the same year.
So to me it’s a global game, and they’re good players, and the stereotype that we have too many European players is, to me, it’s old.
Q. Rightly or wrongly, that stereotype is there. You have 11 Europeans on your team. They play in all sorts of situations. Clearly this team has dispelled that theory, too.
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: I think you really dispel it when you win. Other than that, they can always say, rightly or wrongly, whatever they want.
But that’s not for us to evaluate anyway. We’re just going to do the things that we try to do, and we know we’ve got real good players, real competitive players. I mean, Tomas Holmstrom is one of the toughest players to play, period. The abuse he takes. And Tommy thinks he’s from North America or Sweden, doesn’t matter where he’s from. And he just knows how he plays, and I think that’s a lot of our guys.
Q. All these Europeans, all these guys with experience, all these people who have won Stanley Cups, to the folks who haven’t won Stanley Cup Final in the room, is there any sense that there is really a difference? I know everyone is going to say there’s no difference today than their normally is, but is there a difference today?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: I don’t think anyone said there’s no difference today. I think what we said is our plan is the same. And everyone always talks about the game. Game 4 or the clinching game or whatever. Every game, when it’s the first game of the series, you’re talking about that, because it’s the hardest one. So what we try to have is normalcy.
Now, is it normal? I’m talking to you people every single day. It can’t be normal. It’s a totally different situation, and yet I think over time you prepare for it and you understand what you’re getting yourself in so that normalcy has a chance.
Q. Isn’t it fair to say when you’re talking about Europeans having a group of Swedes is probably more effective than having sprinkling a bunch of different ? in other words, there’s some strength in the fact the fellow countrymen are all on the same team?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: I guess so. I mean, there’s an environment here that they like and they have support, and I think that helps them get adjusted. In saying that, Pavel’s not a Swede. We like him. (Laughter).
I think they’re just good players. And I don’t know…
Q. I’m thinking of the Russian Five?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: That was something to talk about. We started five of them one time, too, just so we could say we had five. They’re just good players. That’s how we look at them. I don’t come into the room and say, you’re a Czech or Canadian. They’re just good people, and they play hard, and they have a lot of will.
Q. The roughest stretch you had during the season came when Lidstrom was out. Can you in the big picture, just talk about how much of an impact he has on everything you guys do as a team?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: Well, I’m not trying to take any credit away from Nick, but we at that time, also had Kronwall out and had Chelios out and we had Rafalski out, too. So we had five of them out.
So it was a real big impact. But Lidstrom, I think just with his everyday professionalism and the modeling he does for the rest of us and how he carries himself, how he handles himself, how well he plays, how hard he practices, how good of fitness he maintains, is an example to everybody.
And I think that’s the key to leadership. Leadership is ? you can say some things sometime, but it’s more about what you do. And to me, that’s what he does for us. Plus obviously he’s a gifted, gifted athlete who reads the game as good as anybody and plays in all situations.
So he’s real important for us, and when your best defensive defenseman is your best offensive defenseman, I think it helps, because you get the puck going.
Q. When this series was very much on the line in Game 3, I guess you could say, Sidney Crosby came out and had his best game. Same situation tonight. Is it your expectation that there’s more from him that we haven’t seen yet, and are you, as a team, prepared for that?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: I’m going to watch and find out, just like you are. In saying that, we expect their good players to be good. They’ve been good all series long. We expect our good players to be good as well.
He’s a young player, and yet he’s mature way beyond his years. And to me, he’s been excellent in this series and very competitive. And I don’t expect anything different from him tonight.
Q. Amid all of this, have you had the time or inclination to check in with the Bretts and all your friends back in Spokane and did you feel vicarious or even direct pride in what happened last weekend?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: I had my Spokane Chiefs hat on last week. I remember where I’m from. Bobby Brett represents me. I talked to Bobby a fair bit. Bill Peters is a good friend of mine, their head coach, and was my assistant coach and has traveled with our team here in Detroit. Tim Speltz was the general manager there.
So I watched with great interest. And the Memorial Cup is something ? and I coached Midget Junior eight years, six years in Spokane. We had great teams and never won.
So the prize is very hard, and I think that winning at every level is difficult. So I have a lot of pride in that, and I’m in constant ? it wasn’t just because of their run. I’m in constant contact with those people anyway.
Q. Just going back to Holmer for a minute. How happy are you, I guess, not only he’s going to help you in the lineup tonight, but the fact that he can play tonight; he’s been there for you all year and you want him in a situation like this?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: You want all your players. I don’t know if Holmer’s leg was broke, he wouldn’t be playing anyway. That’s just the way it is. He’s playing today, and he’ll find a way to be a real good contributor for us tonight.
He’s a good player for us and helps our power play. And our power play hasn’t been all world, by any means, but their penalty kill has been good. And so it helps out with that and gives us more depth and puts Cleary with Draper and that gives us a better line and a line that hangs on the puck more.
So obviously a positive situation. You want to have all your people on deck if you can.
Q. Given the chance to win this thing tonight, is there any shot of seeing Chris Chelios, and have you wrestled with that decision at all in the last 24 to 48 hours?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: No, I haven’t. We’re just going to do everything we can to win. And as much as from your perception sitting in this room, that Chelios is not included or something, that’s not the case at all. He’s a big part of our team every day in our preparation and what’s going on.
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