SAN JOSE, Calif. – Mike Babcock wasn’t thrilled that the Los Angeles Kings had more than six-minutes of power play time, including a pair of 5-on-3 man advantages in the Red Wings’ 2-1 loss at Staples Center Wednesday night.
But he was beyond excited for what he saw out of the six defensemen who were in the lineup against the Kings.
“We didn’t give up hardly any chances and I thought played real well as a team,” said Babcock, in complimenting the Wings’ defense on Thursday morning. “I liked the fact that the D was big. They could skate and they went back and got pucks and paid the price to move it and get it out.
“Did we make some mistakes? Absolutely. But I thought it was the best group that we had all year.”
The only big mistake, according to Babcock, was when some Wings got caught in the corner to the left of the Red Wings’ net, which led to Anze Kopitar’s winning goal in the third period.
“Our second guy, (Cory) Emmerton, he went in the pile and fell down, he shouldn't have went in the pile and maybe Kronner could have been patient as well,” Babcock said. “Emmerton is the second guy in, he was pushing the guy and you got to stay off. On the defensive side, he got on the offensive side and fell down, now he was in. Maybe Toots could have collapsed as well, but that's a play you can't give up in that situation.”
Other than that goal, the Wings played a solid brand of defense, even on the 5-on-3s during the second period, getting several timely clears on the penalty kill from Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Justin Abdelkader and Daniel Cleary. Though the Kings collected one power-play goal when Jeff Carter tied the score at 1-1, the Wings overall limited the Kings’ power play to five shots.
Babcock plans to stick with the same defensive pairings against the Sharks, with Kronwall-Ericsson, Kyle Quincey-Brendan Smith, and Jakub Kindl-Brian Lashoff.
“You can say it’s Game 20, you should look like a hockey team, but as you know we’re had a number of people not available to us,” Babcock said. “That was the best that we’ve looked. At the start of the year we never would have thought about talking about Lash being with that group. He was good. I thought Kuba, who has been hot and cold, I thought he was real competitive last night and so overall that was the biggest plus for me as a coach – was our back end.”
Puck-possession will be key against the bigger-bodied Sharks, but Babcock was certainly encouraged with the way the back-end guys moved the puck out of the defensive zone.
“We were willing to go get it,” he said. “If you can skate and can go get it and get it moving you spend less time in your own zone, especially against a team that flat-out can grind you to a pulp.
“Now it’s back-to-back on the road, it’s mental toughness. You have to do it again. They need a win and we need a win, and so it should be a good hockey game and a desperate hockey game. But the mental toughness to do it right is so important for us.”
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