-- It’s been five years since Mike Babcock guided the Mighty Ducks to the Stanley Cup
|Rafalski and Sykora were teammates in New Jersey from 1999 through 2002. They were foes in the 2003 Cup. |
finals. Five years later, Anaheim no longer has the Mighty, and won a Cup without him.
Yet now he finds himself only three wins away from winning one of his own. Some of the names, though, have remained the same, specifically two that have switched sides. Petr Sykora was a member of Babcock’s 2003 Western Conference champion Ducks team, and Brian Rafalski was on the other side of the ice as a member of the 2003 Stanley Cup-winning New Jersey Devils.
“I didn’t really know too much about him (Babcock), honestly, until I came here outside of playing against him in that series,” Rafalski said. “But I’ve been impressed with how he coaches the team and I think he’s serious at times, and he wants guys to have fun at times too.”
Rafalski, a Detroit-area native, returned home when he signed with the Red Wings as a free agent last July. He’s fit in quite well on the top defensive pair with perennial All-Star Nicklas Lidstrom
, and he matched his season best with 55 points in the regular-season.
Sykora, while having played for Babcock, is also no stranger to Rafalski, having been his teammate for four seasons in New Jersey. Both were on the 2000 Stanley Cup champion Devils team, and both were on the 2001 Devils team that lost to Colorado on the finals.
Babcock knows and respects Sykora, his former player, and knows just how good he can be, and how important he is to the team he on.
“Adam Oates to Pete Sykora in five overtimes in Dallas to win that game, I’ll never forget,” said Babcock, remembering Game 1 of the 2003 Western Conference semifinals, a 4-3 Ducks win. “Petey just shot it in the net for us, just like he is right now.
“Great kid, plays hard, I really like him. He’s got some points milestone, I remember calling him or texting him this year and congratulating him. He’s just a good person, I really enjoyed being around.”
Sykora scored his 600th NHL point this season on Feb. 4 in a 4-3 overtime loss to, of all teams, the Devils.
Back in the Stanley Cup finals, Rafalski and Babcock, both with their second NHL club, know they can take something from the 2003 finals series.
“He’s behind my bench and not the other one, that’s the biggest difference,” said Rafalski, who has 10 points in the 2008 playoffs. “The style of play would be similar, obviously you have different players, but the style that we play fits well for this team and in playing our game it’s been successful.”
Babcock knows, with his experience, and that of Rafalski and all that he has available to him in this Red Wings’ locker room, he may have the upper hand in handling the current situation.
“I think when you don't have experience, you think it's overrated,” said Babcock. “When you've been through it you're supposed to be more poised and calmer and better at it and more prepared and all those things. I don't know if that guarantees success.”