Babcock isn't feeling any Game 7 pressure
If you didn't know any better, you might have thought the Red Wings were the ones who forced Game 7 in this year's Stanley Cup finals based on the coach's demeanor at a news conference Wednesday morning. Less than 24 hours after his team failed to close out the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6, Babcock was garnering more laughs from the assembled media than you'd get at your average night at the House of Comedy on Jefferson Avenue.
Coach, how about a cute story involving your daughter?
"We all had our families fly home, and I got home before them," Babcock said. "So my kids are walking in the door and they're a little tired. I said, 'It might've been a little more fun last year, wasn't it?' And my youngest girl said, 'Yeah, it was more fun.' "
Babs, anyone asking you for tickets?
"My phone's ringing off the hook. Everybody wants a ticket. I don't know where they think we're getting those from."
How was the offseason after your Mighty Ducks of Anaheim lost to the New Jersey Devils in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals in 2003?
"Oh, it was a great summer."
Maybe the reason why Babcock was so loose Wednesday was because of the knowledge he gained from that painful loss six years ago.
In 2003, Babcock was the coach of the Mighty Ducks -- and as is the case in this year's Final, the home team won every game in the series. Unfortunately for Babcock back then, Game 7 was in New Jersey, and the Mighty Ducks fell one win short of hockey's ultimate prize.
"If you look at it, I've been in a series exactly like this and we went to Jersey for Game 7 and lost," Babcock recalled. "It was the same thing. Couldn't win on the road. Couldn't touch the puck on the road.
"You know what, in that (Game 7), the game was tied 0-0 after one period, and it was our best start in the series in their building. I thought, 'This is going to go our way,' and it didn't. I can remember (Mike Rupp's game-winning goal) banging off four different people and going through (Jean-Sebastien) Giguere's legs. It was unbelievable."
The Ducks weren't close to winning a game on the road in that series, as the Devils posted back-to-back 3-0 wins at home to open the series and outscored the Ducks 15-3 overall in New Jersey. With the exception of a 5-0 blowout loss in Game 5, the Penguins have been far more competitive at Joe Louis Arena than Babcock's former team was away from home.
"I think every game in the series, with the exception of Game 5 in here and Game 4 there, could have gone either way," Babcock said of this year's Final. "Those two games the teams just flat-out won the games. Other than that, it's been real close."
This time, Babcock has Game 7 in his building, where the Red Wings are 11-1 this postseason. The Penguins are just 6-6 away from Mellon Arena in these playoffs. But with the series being so competitive, does fear of losing creep into the minds of his players?
"I don't know. I never thought like that," Babcock said. "I guess I don't think like you do. You know, half-full, half-empty, whatever you want to look at it. I never thought about that. I thought about opportunity.
"You've got a chance, and that's when you ask the question about fear. I don't understand that thinking at all. To me, you spend your whole life when you're a kid, at least in Canada, when you don't have a net, you've got little snow piles on the street. You're dreaming of scoring the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. Now you've got it. Play and have some fun.
"I think our players should really enjoy the next couple of days in their preparation so that words like 'fear' and what you're talking about to me don't enter the picture one bit. Not even close."
With history, home ice and experience on their side, the Red Wings have every reason to be confident. The affable Babcock doesn't want his team to think about pressure of the bright spotlight of Game 7 (Friday, 8 p.m. EDT).
"Just come out, play hard, play our best, be loose, driving and enjoy it and get it done," Babcock said.
If the players follow their coach's lead, staying loose certainly won't be a problem.