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Notes: Coaching lessons from Babcock

by Larry Wigge

"In the previous games, we didn't handle the puck at all. When you don't handle the puck and you don't execute, suddenly the other forecheck gets better."
-- Mike Babcock

PITTSBURGH -- On Sunday, Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was asked about coaching with elimination more or less staring squarely in the face of his team. Bylsma responded with a pep talk about overcoming adversity that made clear the coach believes in his team through both good times and bad.

Shortly thereafter, Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock mentioned one of the keys he's looking at from the Penguins for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at Mellon Arena Tuesday night.

"In the previous games, we didn't handle the puck at all," Babcock said, complimenting the Penguins for taking out players in Detroit's own zone and prohibiting them from getting their quick transition game going. "When you don't handle the puck and you don't execute, suddenly the other forecheck gets better."

At first, the comment sounded like an inside-the-game lesson on how to handle Pittsburgh's aggressive forechecking that the Wings' coaching staff looked at hard after losing Games 3 and 4.
But then, Babcock made an interesting analysis about his own club.

"We wondered what are they doing on the forecheck that's giving us trouble?" he said. "But we didn't see anything we didn't see all year. So we just thought that getting back and executing was the most important thing."

In other words, sometimes you don't see what you should from your own team until you look and look some more.

And whether it's Bylsma or Babcock, the coaches will stay true to their teams in their plans for Game 6. They will play to their strengths and not worry about what the other team does so much. The only chink in that kind of philosophy when you have two very skilled teams is having an injured star like a Pavel Datsyuk coming back in the lineup -- and not knowing what kind of an impact he can provide.

Reminders? Both coaches will be looking to get the puck deep and make magic down low.

Coaching more or coaching less? If you listen to Bylsma or Babcock, it's moot at this stage of the game.

The Fleury effect --
Before too much emphasis is put on Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury giving up five goals and being yanked 15:40 into the second period of a 5-0 loss to Detroit in Game 5 Sunday, it should be pointed out that he's 17-4 at home in the playoffs the past two years.

Veteran Penguins winger Bill Guerin isn't worried about Fleury heading into Tuesday night.

"Oh, I think he's going to be just fine," Guerin said. "This is a guy who comes in literally fresh every day. Every day's a new day. He's always got a smile on his face. He's ready to go. I think he'll be absolutely fine. He's got a great type personality to let things just roll off his shoulders and refocus and have fun with it."

From Sid and Geno to Hank and Pav -- We've drooled over the skill of the Red Wings and Penguins for the last two Stanley Cups. How Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are so good together or apart. Same with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.

When Datsyuk made his debut in this year's Stanley Cup Final, it was on the wing alongside Zetterberg. Will that stay the same for Game 6 or will Babcock spread the wealth?

"I have no idea yet," Babcock said. "We're going to break down the tapes and we'll just try to put ourselves in the best situation to get the kind of matchups that are advantageous for us. The more depth you have, the better matchups you get."

But the key according to the coach is: "If you play from behind, you never get what you want. If you play from ahead, you always get what you want."

The Wings have won a lot of games with Datsyuk and Zetterberg together. So look for them to be a tandem, at least at the start of Game 6.

A warning to the Pens -- Goalie Chris Osgood watched the magic show Pavel Datsyuk put on Saturday and marveled once again. Two assists, after being out of the lineup for 17 days.

What's next for Datsyuk?

"Pav will be better Tuesday," Osgood said. "He was getting the rust off tonight."

A warning to the Wings -- Sidney Crosby was asked how his team was going to react to the 5-0 loss in Game 5.

"I think we're going to bounce back. We have all year," Crosby said. "We weren't happy with that effort, but we've moved on."

Like midway through the regular season when the Penguins were 10th and it was looking a little gloomy that they were even going to make it back to the playoffs.

Going through adversity last spring in the Final against Detroit and struggling from the start this season has just helped make this young team stronger and more confident.

Added Crosby, "We're keeping things in perspective here, knowing where we've been and what we have to do now."

Back to the future for Hoss -- Another of those dream matchups: Marian Hossa leaving Pittsburgh for Detroit, ostensibly to win a Stanley Cup. Then, lo and behold, it's Detroit and Pittsburgh playing for Lord Stanley's trophy.

Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Final Gear Now Hossa has a chance to lift the Cup on Pittsburgh's ice with a win Tuesday.

"This is pretty much what I was expecting," Hossa said. "I made my choice. I rolled the dice and played the odds.

"Right now, I try to just not think about not scoring … and who I'm playing against. At this point, the wins are more important."

No goals in this series for Marian, but the rest of the Red Wings and the hockey world are feeling lucky to get this rematch.

"The hockey gods kind of smiled on everybody when this," Red Wings winger Dan Cleary said Sunday. "Hoss has handled it well. It's not easy to go into Pittsburgh and play against your old team. He's got good friends there."

No friends when the puck drops, however.

Nick at night --
On Saturday night, Wings’ 39-year-old defenseman Nick Lidstrom tied Scott Stevens for fourth place on the all-time games played list in the playoffs with 233. Next up? Lidstrom would tie Claude Lemieux for third with 234.

Chris Chelios, who hasn't played for Detroit in this series, is first on that list with 264 games, followed by Mark Messier with 236.

Counting in twos --
Since expansion in 1967, only four players — Wayne Gretzky (four times), Guy Lafleur and Phil Esposito (twice each) and Mario Lemieux -- have won both the Art Ross Trophy and the playoff scoring race in the same season. Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin will enter Game 6 with 35 points -- four better than teammate Sidney Crosby -- for the playoff scoring lead. Malkin won the scoring championship in the regular season with 113 points.
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