By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – Had what happened to the Detroit Red Wings in Game 2 of their series against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins happened in Game 1, coach Mike Babcock would be more worried.
As the series actually unfolded, with the Red Wings taking the first game in Boston and the Bruins commanding the second one, Babcock said his team should have the confidence it needs going forward, even after Boston won by three goals Sunday.
“I really feel good about the fact – I was scared that might be Game 1,” Babcock told Stoney and Bill of 97.1 The Ticket on Monday. “If we had tiptoed around and that was Game 1, we would have felt, ‘Oh, we’re not good enough.’ We’re good enough. We know it now. We’ll talk about it here today, we’ll get regrouped and we’ll be fine.”
Boston lived up to its rough reputation Sunday, and a few extracurricular moments heightened the level of physicality even further. Milan Lucic took a cheap shot on Danny DeKeyser that was severe enough that many thought it warranted more than the relative slap-on-the-wrist penalty of a $5,000 fine. The massive Zdeno Chara looked perfectly villainous as he laughingly fended off an attempt at a fight from the much smaller Brendan Smith. The style the Bruins want to play is different from the one the Red Wings need to play, Babcock said, and the team that can dictate the pace will have the upper hand.
“They want to run the crap out of us, and we want to make them skate, and so if you don’t execute quickly, they get to run you. If you execute quickly, they don’t get to touch you, so to me, that was key,” Babcock said. “The other thing is when I look at it our power play breakout and then our penalty kill forecheck I didn’t think were good enough. Either side we’ve got to make an adjustment, which we will, and be better.”
To neutralize a player like Chara in particular, who stands 6-feet-9-inches, Babcock said speed is key.
“You skate,” Babcock said. “I really do, I thought we had them in trouble in Game 1. I thought we had them in no trouble in Game 2. For us, the whole key is just execution. We’re in a series, we’re playing a real good team. I’d like us to play our best each and every day. Which part was them and which part was us? I don’t know. I don’t want to take anything away from them. We weren’t good enough, and we’ll talk about that here today.
“As a coaching staff, any way you look at it, your job is to have them prepared for what they’re going to face. We started okay, we didn’t handle it, so we didn’t have them prepared good enough, so that’s on us,” Babcock continued. “The beauty of this time of year … now it’s a man’s game. I don’t care how much skill you have. How hard do you want to compete? You can’t get backed off. You don’t have to be big. You don’t have to be 6-9 like Chara. All you have to do is be competitive and command your share of the ice. That doesn’t mean punching someone in the head after the whistle. That means whistle to whistle being heavy on the puck, taking your time, making good plays, wanting the puck. That’s part of the growth for our kids.”
Since injuries sidelined various veterans for lengthy periods this season, Detroit has relied on many of its youngest players, most of whom have by this point gained significant experience filling in for the veterans. Still, it was superstar Pavel Datysuk who scored what would be the only goal when the Red Wings won, 1-0, in the series opener Friday, a game in which goalie Jimmy Howard looked tremendous.
The following day, Howard looked more average, but Babcock did not want to pin the loss on him.
“When your team wins, the goalie’s outstanding; when you don’t win the goalie’s never good enough,” Babcock said. “The way I look at this is we do it all together. I thought we played real well in Game 1. I didn’t think as a group we were good enough in Game 2. We have to get better.
“On off-days after a win, and I don’t care who you are, you try to guard against it, one group relaxes a little bit more, even though you’re talking and warning about it, and especially a young group, and the other group got dialed in,” Babcock added. “I thought we were more prepared in Game 1. I thought they were more prepared in Game 2.”
Babcock said the keys for the rest of the series will be the power play and the penalty kill.