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Babcock: We can be better

by Dan Rosen

Even though his Detroit Red Wings dominated just about every aspect of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, coach Mike Babcock believes that his team can play better in Game 2 against the Dallas Stars.
WATCH Highlights from the Wings' Game 1 win
Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock really doesn’t care too much if the Dallas Stars will be better tonight in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final than they were in Thursday’s 4-1 loss in Game 1.

His focus – and rightfully so – is on how the Red Wings will be better.

How is that possible, you may ask? It’s a legitimate question considering the Red Wings dominated just about every aspect of Game 1, including the scoreboard, shots (31-21), faceoffs (35-21), and power plays (3-for-7 against Dallas’ 0-for-4).

Babcock, though, has his own theory.

“We know we’re going to be better,” he said Friday. “We were off for a while and we think we can be much quicker and much harder to play against. That’s going to be our focus. They have a very good team and we’re very aware of that.”

The prevailing opinion by many pundits in the Motor City is tonight we’ll likely see more of the same physicality Dallas showed in the third period of Game 1. The Stars feel they need to win the physical game in order to control the high-octane Wings.

To that end, Babcock says bring it on.

“That’s not how they’re going to win,” said Babcock. “If they’re going to win it’s because they’re going to play well. To me, I’m not concerned about that one bit. I think that our power play answered any kind of questions. If they want to fool around, then all the power to us.”

Knowing is Half the Battle – The Stars are having no trouble pinpointing what they have to do better to win Game 2 and take an even series back home.


“We’ll adjust,” center Mike Ribeiro said. “That’s why you have seven games. If you lose one you adjust and come back stronger. We know what we didn’t do well and what we did well. We need better effort and better discipline.”

Dallas was not happy with how it skated and battled. The Stars felt seven penalties were way too many, and their faceoff woes (38 percent) didn’t help any. They didn’t kill penalties effectively, or convert on any of their four power plays.

“We’d like to not sit around and watch so much, try to initiate and be aggressive,” Stars captain Brendan Morrow said. “We need to play our style with the puck in the zone. It’s tough for those guys to score when they’re 200 feet from the goal.”

Need the Puck
– Part of Dallas’ problem in Game 1 was it won only 38 percent of the faceoffs (21-of-56), and the team’s top three centers – Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards and Mike Modano – went a combined 13-for-42, a paltry 30.9-percent success rate.

Not winning draws led to a considerable amount of time fighting off Detroit’s puck-possession game, which arguably is the best in the NHL, due in large part to the Red Wings’ ability to win faceoffs.

“When your top three centermen are all 30 percent in the draws, you’re chasing a lot from right there,” said Stars coach Dave Tippett. “You have to be able to do things with the puck. Recognize when they have it you have to check well and get it back. That’s common-sense hockey right there.”

Despite coaching the best faceoff team in the NHL – the Red Wings won 53.3 percent of their regular-season draws – Babcock said he doesn’t expect to see the same glaring faceoff differential in Game 2.

“They have to put their stick down first on the road, and so sometimes it’s an advantage to the home team,” Babcock said. “They have good faceoff people. I don’t expect that to continue, yet it’s something we take a lot of pride in. I think we were best in the League this year, and we want to continue to do that.”

More Mule – We can’t get enough of Johan Franzen these days.

His goal Thursday was his League-leading 12th of the playoffs and 27th in the last 27 games. Franzen has scored 10 goals in the last five games, and at least one goal in each of them. He had 38 goals in his first 229 NHL games, including the playoffs.

“I don’t think anybody would have said, including Johan, that he would be leading the National Hockey League in scoring,” said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. “I don’t think people would have bet on that. Yet in saying that, he’s been excellent. I thought Dallas did a good job of trying to keep us away from their net, yet he was a presence net front.”

Dallas hopes to counter against Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom in front of the net by pushing back harder. That was a topic of discussion during Friday’s practice.

“Our goaltender has to battle harder to get us space,” Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. “If they’re going to be allowed to stand in the paint, then we have to battle harder to push them out. Simple as that.”

At the Helm – Entering the series there was a lot of talk about how good Dallas is down the middle with Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards and Mike Modano. Well, Detroit is pretty good, too, and Wings coach Mike Babcock said rookie Darren Helm deserves some of the credit.
The Red Wings are 7-0 in the playoffs with Helm centering their fourth line.

“The play of Helm has really solidified our middle,” Babcock said. “He’s just so quick. You add him with the quickness of (Kris) Draper, and (Valtteri) Filppula can flat out fly. Z (Henrik Zetterberg) is not bad, either.”

Helm, who is 21, played in just seven regular-season games this season – debuting on March 13 – and finished with no points and a minus-2 rating. He was a healthy scratch for the first four games of the playoffs, but since getting into the lineup, he’s playing more than eight minutes a game, has nine shots on goal and an assist.

Helm had 31 points in 67 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL.

Briefs – Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said it’s unlikely he’ll insert Darren McCarty into the lineup for Game 2 after scratching him in favor of Kirk Maltby in Game 1. Maltby played 11 shifts totaling 7:11, and had a shot on goal and three hits. … Stu Barnes (concussion-type symptoms) is day-to-day, according to Stars coach Dave Tippett, who added the veteran forward “looked better out there. We’ll evaluate him in the morning.” Brad Winchester likely would play again if Barnes is unable to go. … Tippett offered no insight as to whether he’ll play defenseman Matt Niskanen (healthy scratch in Game 1) over Mark Fistric tonight. “We’ll visit that tomorrow,” Tippett said of swapping the rookie blue-liners.

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