CHICAGO - If enthusiasm were coin of the realm, Mike Babcock would be Bill Gates.
Tuesday afternoon, not exactly fresh but only 18 hours removed from his Detroit Red Wings blowing a 2-1 lead to land themselves in a Game 7 on enemy ice tonight, the coach addressed reporters at the team’s Chicago hotel.
He was so full of hiss and vinegar, by the time he’d finished his media peptalk, the hockey writers must have been ready to strap on the blades and hit somebody.
If this was a coach worried about the shift of momentum since his team led the Blackhawks three games to one only four days ago, Babcock gave no sign of it -- or of dread entering Game 7 at United Center against the NHL’s No. 1 regular-season team.
“I like the fact that it’s what competition is all about,” he said. “If you’re going to continue to play, you have to be successful in the game. You grow up as a kid dreaming about scoring a goal in Game 7.
“Obviously anytime you go to Game 7, it’s been a heck of a series, so we just feel that we’ve done enough good things and feel good about our game. We’re in the best league in the world and there’s six teams left. We must be doing something right and we’re having a lot of fun. Everyone else is at home watching and you want to play as long as you can.
“Would you like this series to be over and moving on? Absolutely. But saying that, what an opportunity. We played in Game 7 last series and that was a lot of fun, so why wouldn’t this be? “ Asked if his team was loose heading into the deciding game, Babcock said “you have to be at the right level for you. “Loose is a great way to be, but you have to be intense about what you’re doing, too. When players are talking about being loose, they’re not talking about being loose in a bar, they’re talking about being loose enough to execute. You don’t want to be all wound up, but you want to be amped enough to be at the best of your ability. That’s the challenge to walk along that fine line.”
He expects more production out of his big guns, he said, because that’s what big guns do.
“Pav (Datsyuk) had six shots on net, he was home free, he didn’t score, he didn’t get it up over the pad, but he’s due. The way I look at guys like that, when they haven’t scored in a bit, they’re due. Everyone talked about (Hawks’ Jonathan) Toews for a long time, it’s the same thing. When you’re due, you’re a good player and you work hard and determined, eventually you’re going to break out. To me, those guys are like money in the bank. Our third and fourth lines were good, they scored two goals last night and we’ll let the other guys join the party.
“If you’re not getting any shots on net, if you’re not getting any looks, then that’s a different story. But we had looks like night. You have to find a way to put it in the net. Close doesn’t get you anywhere at this time of year.”
ON THE OTHER HAND -- Here was Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, answering questions about the health of players who were dinged up in Monday’s game.
“I think they’re fine, yeah.”
HOW’S THE ICE? -- The Stones played United Center on Tuesday night, play again Friday and again Monday. After Tuesday’s concert, the roadies had the massive undertaking of disassembling the huge stage and the arena crew had to do the rest of the changeover to hockey ice.
If the Blackhawks win Wednesday, they might have to play Games 1 and 2 of the conference final on back-to-back days, Saturday and Sunday. Meanwhile, with hot and muggy temperatures in Chicago, the condition of the ice is bound to be an adventure.
“It’s a busy building, some nights are tough, but it’s the same for both teams,” said Toews. “If it’s chippy a little bit, you just have to play a simple game, can’t make too many pretty plays.”
“It’ll be fine,” said Quenneville.
GEARING UP -- Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who will have to be a big part of the story if Detroit is to prevail in Game 7, said he’s not worried about getting overexcited.
“You don’t get as jittery, you don’t get as nervous. I look at them as though they’re a lot of fun, it’s down to the last game and you lay everything out on the line, that’s the only thing you can ask of yourself,” said Howard, who’s got one Game 7 win on the road already under his belt this spring.
“You can’t get ahead of yourself, you can’t try to accomplish everything on one shift or one save. It’s going to be a grind out there tomorrow night, and you just have to stay within yourself.”
WHO’S FEELING IT? -- “There’s pressure on both teams,” said Toews, who doesn’t think either team has it easier, or harder, at this point. “And I think most of that pressure comes from within. It was no breeze getting to this point, and even though it was a shortened season, every guy in this room -- whether they played every night or sacrificed their playing time and got scratched, we have a lot of great individuals here who paid the price to get here, so that’s where the pressure comes from. We want to win for each other.”
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