When it comes to strategy, connecting with his players and, most of all, winning, they don't come much better than Detroit Red Wings
coach Mike Babcock.
The fiery-yet-humble Babcock is in the midst of another phenomenal season behind the Wings' bench, as Detroit once again reached the Western Conference Final with Thursday night's 4-3 victory against the Anaheim Ducks
in Game 7 at Joe Louis Arena.
All this, of course, after last season's tremendous run to Detroit's fourth Stanley Cup championship since 1997.
Ready, willing and determined to make it five titles in 12 seasons, the Red Wings will begin Round 3 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs Sunday afternoon (3 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN, RDS) against the Chicago Blackhawks
at Joe Louis Arena.
Part of the reason why the Red Wings have made it this far is because of Babcock's ability to make sure his team remains focused on the task at hand. Rarely, if ever, are his teams blown out: Detroit's three losses to Anaheim in Round 2 came by a combined three goals.
So when the Red Wings returned home following a 2-1 loss to the Ducks in Game 6, Babcock remained upbeat. Given the amount of talent on his team, there wasn't any reason not to feel that way.
"We watched a movie and had a nice meal," Babcock said of the flight back from Southern California on Wednesday. "The big thing is, when it's not going your way, don't press. You've got to continue to do the things you always do. We got up this morning, we were at Disneyland. The sun got up, everyone was smiling ... life was alright."
It was vintage Babcock. Twenty-four hours later, he received the OK from doctors that veteran Kris Draper
would be able to make his postseason debut. It was one of many reasons to believe the Wings would find a way.
And then he walked into his team's dressing room and, as usual, gave a calming-yet-focused speech.
"He said that you've got to enjoy the moment," Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom
said. "You're not going to able to play that many Game 7's. He told us to enjoy it, but keep our focus and that we know what we have to do."
Detroit then went out and did it, in dramatic fashion. Daniel Cleary
broke a 3-3 tie with three minutes left in regulation for the game-winning goal. It was simply another case of Babcock's demeanor showing throughout his lineup.
"It's been fun," Lidstrom said of playing for Babcock. "He's an intense, demanding coach, but I think he brings out the best in us, too."
Contact Brian Compton at: firstname.lastname@example.org.