BOSTON – It wasn’t that long ago that Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was behind the bench for a Red Wings core group that was Stanley Cup caliber, and took home a Cup with Niklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg leading the way in 2007-08. Those Winged Wheels teams had depth, Hall of Fame talent, committed two-way players and a style that forced other teams into playing exactly the way they wanted them to.
Clearly that’s no longer the case with aging core players like Datsyuk and Zetterberg paired with next generation Red Wings like Gustav Nyquist, Brendan Smith and Tomas Tatar. But Babcock did recognize the distinct look of a champion that he saw opposing him across the ice, and leaves Detroit’s 4-2 loss in a Game 5 elimination game impressed with the Bruins way of doing things.
The Bruins do it in a different way, but this year’s edition of the Black and Gold are a “legit contender” in the eyes of Babcock.
“We’re not there. This [Bruins] team that we played today is like we used to be in ’08, ’09, and ’07. They’re a legit contender with a good depth and good experience. I think it’s just overall depth. They’ve got good players,” said Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. “Some teams have got a real good team, and their goalie gets you started, gets the opposition started. This [Rask] kid doesn’t get you started. Not only does he stop the puck, he plays the puck good, so it’s harder to get in on their D.
“Their back end is left- and right-hand shots. When you set up a team, if you can have left- and right-hand shots, it makes it way easier to move the puck through the neutral zone. They’re at the right time. I assume people are going to start getting paid around here too, and then that gets in the way. The cap has gone up enough in the NHL that it helps you keep your players. A few years ago, you couldn’t keep them, they just left. But obviously Pete [Chiarelli] and Claude [Julien] have done a real good job here, and they look like they’re a real solid team. You want to keep it as long as you can.”
That’s high praise from a smart, accomplished hockey man in Babcock.
The Bruins have actually done a good job of paying their nucleus while keeping it together, and certainly have an aim at putting together something organizationally impressive like the 23 consecutive playoff appearances put together by the Red Wings. But for now they’ll simple enjoy forcing Detroit out of the Stanley Cup playoffs in five games, and focus on another Original Six foe with a date set up for the Montreal Canadiens starting next week.