That's why it's telling when Babcock, less than 30 minutes after watching the Red Wings blow a pair of one-goal leads and lose a game they most definitely should have won, said he has no issues at all with how his team is playing.
The Red Wings have lost three-straight games, two by way of shootout over the weekend and then 3-2 in regulation to the Washington Capitals Tuesday night. They remain ninth in the Western Conference, a rare spot for a team that is so used to being the hunted.
But Babcock is smiling.
"Don't get me wrong, we're in the winning business and we need points, but I like the way our team has played," Babcock said. "We know we're a work in progress and we think we're getting better all the time. I think if you ask their team how our team played I think they will be fairly respectful to say the least. They got the points here (in D.C.) and that's what it is all about, winning, but they know who had the puck."
The Red Wings did for the majority of Tuesday's game.
They outshot the Capitals 46-23, but couldn't build on a 1-0 lead in the second period or hold a 2-1 lead in the third. They were 0-for-5 on the power play and let the Caps score twice within 46 seconds late in the third period to steal the win.
Washington's Nicklas Backstrom scored with 6:45 to play when Todd Bertuzzi
was in the penalty box for tripping, and David Steckel scored the winner with 5:59 left.
"It's disappointing the way they came back and got that third goal," captain Nicklas Lidstrom
told NHL.com. "It's disappointing when you can't hang on in a game like this."
A game like this -- for two meaningful points in the middle of January -- is something the Red Wings aren't too familiar with. Normally by now they are chasing the Presidents' Trophy or at the very least first place in the Western Conference. But through 49 games, they are still trying to jump into the top eight -- and two points over their last three games won't help their cause.
"It's different," forward Dan Cleary admitted to NHL.com. "When you're scoreboard-watching to see how other teams are doing, it's different. But, it makes games like (Tuesday's) real important as opposed to previous years when we'd come in and not necessarily know it was a given, but we would know we had a real good chance of winning if we played our game."
Funny thing is, the Wings are starting to feel that way again, even though the results aren't yet there.
Lidstrom said he senses the Wings are back to playing more of a team game, and Babcock mentioned how nobody is losing patience.
They showed that Tuesday night by playing what really was vintage Red Wings' hockey.
They dominated time of possession and had twice as many shots as the Capitals. They became the first team since Oct. 8, 2007, to hold Alex Ovechkin without a shot on goal. They even scored a timely goal in the third period to take a 2-1 lead before it all evaporated.
"We've had a few games like this where we should have pulled away or we should have gotten a second goal earlier in the second period but we didn't and teams find a way to beat us," Lidstrom said. "That's a little bit of what we have seen so far, but I do think we have been getting better at playing as a team again by keeping goals against down and keeping scoring chances down. We haven't been able to score as many goals, and that's been one of our problems."
Don't get me wrong, we're in the winning business and we need points, but I like the way our team has played. We know we're a work in progress and we think we're getting better all the time. - Mike Babcock
It's a problem that could be rectified soon as the Wings continue to get healthy.
Cleary and Jonathan Ericsson
recently rejoined into the lineup. Niklas Kronwall
remains roughly a week to 10 days away, according to GM Ken Holland. Johan Franzen
should be back just before the Olympic break or definitely after it. Jason Williams is also on the mend and Tomas Holmstrom
should be back soon, too.
"We believe we have a good team," Cleary said. "We had a lot of people that were out for an extended time and we did a good job to stay in the hunt, so we're right there and we believe we'll be a dangerous team when we get in.
"Now we just have to find a way to win."