March 31: Look Ahead in Hockeytown
It's crunch time for the Red Wings, who face Bruins, Sabres and Canadiens this week
|Now in his ninth season with the Red Wings; coach Mike Babcock has compiled a 411-196-90 record with the club. (Photo by Getty Images)|
DETROIT – On Sunday evening, Mike Babcock earned his 411th victory behind the Red Wings’ bench, passing his mentor, legendary coach Scotty Bowman, to move into sole possession of second place in franchise history.
Babcock, in his ninth season with the Detroit organization, now trails Jack Adams by two wins for the most in club history.
“Scotty’s the greatest coach of all time in our business,” Babcock said when asked by reporters about passing his coaching idol. “The way the business was then and the way it is now, to have the amount of wins Scotty has is impossible and you’re not going to get to coach so many Stanley Cup champions.”
Bowman led the Red Wings to three Stanley Cup championships while coaching the team from 1993-94 to 1999-2002. In 30 years of coaching, Bowman held the reins of five different clubs all while establishing such astronomically high benchmarks that future coaches may never reach.
No coach has had his name engraved more times on the Stanley Cup than Bowman, who hoisted the Cup a record nine times, including five with the Montreal Canadiens in the 1970s. It’s quite conceivable that nobody will ever coach as many games (2,141) and win as many (1,244) as William Scott Bowman did.
“Scotty should be in a class by himself,” Babcock said. “It’s not like I wanted to pass Scott Bowman, but I’m honored. He’s a good friend of mine. I’m honored I get to talk about him here.”
The 50-year-old Babcock, who once coached the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, now has 480 NHL wins, which is sixth amongst current league coaches. He led the Red Wings to seven consecutive 100-plus point seasons before the NHL’s lockout-shortened campaign last year.
This Saturday in Montreal, Babcock will become the fourth coach to reach the 700-game plateau in franchise history. Only Adams (964), Sid Abel (811) and Bowman (701) have coached more games with Detroit.
Injuries to star players Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have defined this season, making it a tumultuous ride for the Wings’ front office and coaching staff. Yet, Babcock and the young up and coming stars from AHL Grand Rapids have made every game interesting.
Should the Red Wings fight their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs, thus keeping a string of postseason appearances intact since 1991, there could be an argument that Babcock deserves to win the award named for the man he soon will catch in team wins.
“The year you’re in is the most challenging one,” Babcock said last week. “It’s just like marriage. Don’t worry about the last one and you don’t worry about the next one, you worry about the one you’re in. it’s the same thing. You got to execute and you got to find a way to get wins. That’s all there is.”
With that, here’s a look ahead to this week in Hockeytown:
PLAYER TO WATCH: With a 4-3 shootout victory over Philadelphia Sunday, goaltender Tuukka Rask earned the 100th win of his career in the NHL. Rask made 28 saves for his seventh shutout of the season in Boston’s 3-0 victory over Chicago on March 27, a career season-high and the most in a season by a Bruins’ goaltender since Tim Thomas in 2010-11 (9). The goaltender currently ranks second in the league with a career goals-against average of 2.11 among all active goaltenders who have played in 25-plus career NHL games. Rask ranks second only to fellow Boston goaltender Chad Johnson (2.11) in the statistical category. – ANDREA NELSON
PLAYER TO WATCH: After being recalled on an emergency basis on March 27, rookie center Johan Larsson has earned two points (0-2-2) in Buffalo’s last two contests. Larsson’s recall was necessary after forward Torrey Mitchell sustained an undisclosed injury in Buffalo’s 2-0 loss to Montreal last Tuesday, and a back injury sidelined center Zenon Konopka for the club’s last three games. While Mitchell is out indefinitely, Konopka’s injury is day-to-day. Larsson was acquired from the Minnesota Wild on April 3, 2013, and has earned three assists in 23 games with the Sabres this season. – ANDREA NELSON
PLAYER TO WATCH: Max Pacioretty scored twice in the Canadiens’ 4-1 win at Florida Saturday, establishing a new career-high with his 34th and 35th goals of the season. He is currently riding a three-game goal-scoring streak, with his first tally Saturday standing as his 10th winner of the season to take over the NHL-lead. Pacioretty is the first Canadiens’ player to reach double-digits in winning goals since Vincent Damphousse scored 10 in 1993-94. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Pacioretty is the fifth Canadiens’ player in the last 18 seasons to score 35 or more goals in a season, joining Pierre Turgeon and Vincent Damphousse who each produced 38 goals in 1995-96. – BILL ROOSE