Kukla's Korner

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Thursday with Mike Babcock

Q.  You mentioned last night that you thought you’d overplayed Datsyuk and Zetterberg, if I understand that.  Can you explain what you meant and maybe talk a bit about how you assess their play through the first three games and maybe what you’d like to see from them going forward?

COACH MIKE BABCOCK:  Well, our plan going into the game last night was, if you look at the game sheet, was to have our shifts at 35 seconds.

So you say that as a coach, you know that means 40.  When they end up at 51 seconds and you pile that on over a period of time, 29 or 28 shifts end up to be too many minutes.

Don’t get me wrong.  These guys are elite, elite players and they’re trying to win.  And sometimes in doing that, instead of just doing your part, you’re on the ice too much.

And we want to play them that many shifts, but we want the tempo coming off our bench to be better.  And then you play at a higher level.  Now, I mean last night’s game for me, you know, if you’re talking about the way it went at the start and all that, everything was perfect for us.  15 minutes in the game, we’re out shooting them 9-1.  But from that 15-minute mark until when Franzen scores, I think at 14:48, there’s 20 minutes there.  They get 18 of their 24 shots in the game.

And they win the battle.  They’re quicker than us.  Those things happen.  They scored a goal.  They hadn’t scored a goal in the playoffs at that point.  They got momentum.  I thought we could have been better as a team that way.  And I think a big part of it is you’ve got to use your people right.

Now, it’s easier when you’re at home and you can get every matchup and all that, I understand that.  But we have good players.  The coach has to trust to get them on and off the ice.

Q.  Looked like Holmstrom took a nasty fall with the hit with Gil late in the game.  How was he after the game, and how was he this morning?

COACH MIKE BABCOCK:  I didn’t see him this morning.  After the game, he didn’t feel too good.  The good thing is we have today to look at it and see how he is tomorrow, and then we’ll move ahead from there.

Q.  You proved, I guess, somewhat prophetic when referring to the ‘03 Cup Final.  Everyone wrote off your team back then.  A lot of people wrote off the Penguins after the two games.  Is that just, through your experience, it’s not going to be that easy?

COACH MIKE BABCOCK:  It’s never that easy, no matter what everybody thinks.  It’s just not like that.  And you know, I thought last game they had better puck luck than they had in our building.

We turned the puck over.  When we turned the puck over when nothing was going on, on a set, rake-out, they shot the puck, it bounced right back to them.  They banked another one from below the goal line.

It didn’t bounce to them in our building.  Sometimes I think we think there’s a bigger separation than it is.  The game’s at the end in our building weren’t like the game in the end last night.  They were done.  Last night’s game was still available right until the very end.

And so in our mind it’s great—to tell you the truth, it’s great to have an off day today.  And we won’t talk very much about hockey today.  We’ll get ready tomorrow and get ready to play again.  And it should be a lot of fun.

Q.  When a player comes back from injury, you never know how long it’s going to take them to shake the rest.  But looked like Franzen last night was right back to where he left off?

COACH MIKE BABCOCK:  I thought it was the best sign in the game last night for us, the Mule was back.  He was dominant for us.  He’s just a good, good player.  We’re excited to see that.  And he’ll be feeling good about himself.  It’s amazing how much energy you can get from scoring a goal.

And it’s unbelievable.  And I think probably for him it energized him, and now that line was our best line last night for sure.

Q.  This time of year, you know, people make mistakes.  A lot of people don’t like to talk about it.  You come out last night without being asked.  You go:  Hey, I played this guy too much.  I didn’t do it right.  What is it in your makeup that you’re willing to say:  Hey, I made a mistake and this stuff happens?  Why do you do that when a lot of guys don’t do that?

COACH MIKE BABCOCK:  I was talking to King this morning, and I said:  I’m from Saskatoon, and that’s what you do.  I don’t know the answer to that question.  Bottom line is players make mistakes.  Coaches make mistakes.  I’m not talking we didn’t have a good plan, weren’t trying to do the right thing.  Sometimes when you’re trying to do the right thing the wrong thing happens.  That’s life.

But I think it’s a process, just like you as a writer or anybody else in here, you’re trying to get better all the time.  If not somebody else has your job.  And to me this is a great learning opportunity no matter how many times you’ve been here, how many times you’ve won.

And you know, I always like the process at the end of the game.  You evaluate your players, evaluate the coaching staff.  I say to the guys before the game and coaching staff, we have to have the right people on the ice, and we have to have the people that are playing the best on the ice.

I thought we did that fine last night, except we overplayed some guys and our shift length was too long as a group, and in the end, we didn’t get the flow we wanted.

Q.  Seemed Pittsburgh was much more physical last night.  Do you feel you matched them physically, and are you looking at maybe bringing in a McCarty or anything like that to add more physical presence to your lineup for Game 4?

COACH MIKE BABCOCK:  I can’t tell you at this time.  I looked at the finished checks.  They marked the finished checks.  I think there were 34, 34, 34, 32, something like that.  I thought when we weren’t quick for 20 minutes there in the game, they were more physical.  I thought when we were quick, there wasn’t the same kind of physical play.

And it is the Stanley Cup Final.  As the series goes on, they usually get a bit more physical, and we’re totally aware of that and understand how that’s going to be.

Q.  What qualities did your team lean on when you lost two straight games to Dallas, and what is that that you look for to come out after losing last night’s game?

COACH MIKE BABCOCK:  You know, that’s a good question, is we’ve been a good team all year.  If you’re at the game last night, I don’t think the rink was tilted or we weren’t in the game.  We gave up 24 shots and lost on the road.  And if you go through our whole year, when we lose on the road we give up 22 shots.  That’s life.

So I think we’re a pretty confident group.  We like our team.  We like how we play.  We thought they played better last night.  We think they’ll play better again.  We think we have to be better.

But I don’t think in our situation you gotta make it up.  You believe this is what happens.  This is what we do.  We respond and play better the next game.  We feel Saturday will be no different.

Q.  Are there lessons or anything that you learned from coaching in the Finals in 2003 that you’ve been able to apply here, whether more philosophical than tactically, obviously it’s different teams.  But just curious day?to?day, dealing with the team, just anything you may have learned from going through what you did in ‘03?

COACH MIKE BABCOCK:  You know, it’s a grind.  It goes forever.  Just never seems to end.  It’s so interesting about the playoffs that people talk about the playoffs are long.  It’s not for lots of teams.  It’s like one week and done.  But when you’re real fortunate and you’ve got a good team like Pittsburgh does or like we do, it gets to go for a long period of time.

And so I think just staying fresh as a team and using today in a good manner and not wearing on your people.  Understanding that you gotta get reenergized, and rest is a weapon and get prepared to play.

And getting the lessons out of the game, like last night, that you can.  But no sense beating yourself up over it.  We didn’t win the game.  It’s a new day tomorrow.  It’s a new day today.  It’s sunny.  Let’s go.

Q.  People look at this Red Wings team and think that coaching has got to be like running a Ferrari or something.  What’s it like to be the guy that’s behind the bench of this team?  There’s only one team in the League like this one.  What’s it like?

COACH MIKE BABCOCK:  It’s interesting you say that now.  When people don’t pick us to be any good at the start of the year each and every year for the last three years, sometimes I wonder if that’s the case.  (Laughter).

I think it’s easy to call us Ferrari or Pittsburgh a Ferrari right now, because we’re still playing.  But at the start of the year, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.  I think there was other teams, San Jose and Anaheim, teams like that, that were picked to be real good.

People talked about the Rangers.  So I guess you gotta have a good mechanic and you just gotta keep her going.  I don’t know anything about cars.  I just know that (laughter) we got a good group.  Nick Lidstrom is, in my opinion, a great captain.

And our people are very, very driven, have a lot of will.  When I watch Crosby, he looks to me like a guy with a lot of will.  If your best player has a ton of will, your best players have a ton of will, I think you have a chance to get everybody to improve.

And you talk about this Ferrari, no one knew who Franzen was a year and a half ago or even Dan Cleary, except if things didn’t go good.  Or Valtteri Filppula or Jiri Hudler.  Or a guy like Stuart comes here, and suddenly, who is Nick Kronwall.  They have a whole bunch of guys like that as well.

Maybe not the same because they were all first round top 5 picks, lots of them, but they’ve still added players that have come in and fit a role and played better maybe than people thought they could.  And that’s why the teams are here.  Long answer, sorry.

Q.  Does a loss in the playoffs have the capacity to overthink more so than one in the regular season or is shaking it off exactly the same process?

COACH MIKE BABCOCK:  That’s a real good question.  I think overthinking is, for the coaching staff, in between games to, you know, beat it up, you toss it around.  And normally what we do, I had a lot of questions in the Dallas series.  We lost two games and everyone was talking about, you’re going to change this, change that.  We said:  No, we’re not changing that.  This is what we do.

And if we needed to change something, we’d change it.  But it was interesting to me is last night their coach went back to the way they were.  Why is that?

Sometimes you get in the way, too, as the coach.  I think you have to be real careful of that.  We’ve got to go back to our simple foundation, our blueprint, whatever we call it, the same thing we worked on at training camp, the same thing that’s led to success.  And I believe under pressure you go back to who you are anyway.

So do what you do.

Q.  As a coach, what’s it like to have a resource like Scotty Bowman to draw upon?  How often do you talk to him, and what do you talk about?

COACH MIKE BABCOCK:  I talk to Scotty lots.  We talk about his kids, and we talk about what the weather’s like in Florida, and we talk about hockey, and we talk about lots of stuff.  We talk about the best Pittsburgh team he never ever coached that never won the Cup.  We talk about many, many things.

And we talk about if their coach does this, what am I going to do.  And if he does that.  Or did you like this player last night?  Or what did you think of this.  We go through it all.

But I do that with lots of people, too.  Like I said, I talked to Dave King here this morning, and whether it be whoever in hockey, I talk to lots of guys.  I always try to gather information.  My wife cleared things up here for me this morning and made sure I was on track.  Just gathering information.  But Scotty is a great person, foremost.

It had to be special for Scotty last night.  I was proud of him last night to walk out on the ice and to have coached both teams and drop the puck.  I think that’s very special.  He’s good to have as a friend.

Q.  Last night you talked about preferring your second unit on the power plays last night.  Have you had a chance to further assess your power play and where it’s at?

COACH MIKE BABCOCK:  Second unit was better than the first unit, two games in a row.

Q.  Why?  In what capacity?

COACH MIKE BABCOCK:  That’s what the second unit says, how come you keep putting the first unit out first, then?  (Smiling)  Anybody who has been in hockey will tell you that for a long time.  We do that a lot ? I mean, first unit, second unit.  First unit is Pavel and Hank and whoever you play with him.  Nicklas Lidstrom, because that’s who it is.  But we’ve done it all year long.

When the second unit was hotter, we played them first.  We do the same thing.  And they’re doing a better job of getting the puck, winning their battles, shooting the puck, not going across seam all the time and turning pucks over.  It’s substance.  They shoot it, and they get it back.

And our top group is being a little too fine right now.  But they’re real proud guys, and they’re smart guys and they know ? yesterday before the game, when we were going through the power play and none of the clips were them, they know.  (Laughter).

Filed in: NHL Teams, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: mike+babcock, quotes, transcript


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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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