The times, they are a-changing. Two teams and one coach are feeling their way through the beginning of the season with some notable differences. Back in April, it was kind of obvious that something was amiss between Mike Babcock and the Detroit Red Wings. His goal is to win a Stanley Cup and, unfortunately, the Wings have been underperforming in the postseason lately.
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With his contract ready to expire, he made some comments after Tampa Bay eliminated Detroit in Game 7 of the first round (a shutout, no less!) that raised eyebrows. He said: “Our team’s not as good as it was. It’s very evident. We battled our butt off to get into the playoffs.” Before his words even had time to fully sink in, he signed on to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Anticipation was high last night as people were eager to see what he had done with the beleaguered team. They were hosting the Montreal Canadiens so I definitely was sitting on my couch, waiting for the action. I have to say, along with many other fans, that the Leafs looked like an entirely different team. They were playing Mike Babcock hockey and it was both encouraging and surprising.
The Habs handed them a 3-1 loss with Carey Price making a spectacular 36 saves but Toronto was in control for much of the game. By the second period, they were easily outshooting Montreal.
In the aftermath of the loss, Babcock was optimistic. This was, after all, just one game. The coach said: “We had good structure, we did a lot of very good things, we played hard enough. We can still get way better.”
Of course, this is true but they still need to address some of their lingering issues. For example, goaltender, Jonathan Bernier, let in a ridiculous goal. Indeed, it was the first shot the Habs took on net. From 40 feet away. Sure, there was some bouncing but he needs to work on controlling that puck.
To his credit, Bernier is honest about his struggles. He reflected: “Personally I think, the first half of the game I wasn’t very strong. I gave up a lot of rebounds and nerve was in. But, as the game got going I felt much better. I thought I finished pretty strong tonight.”
Even the opposition took notice of Toronto’s presence on the ice. Price remarked: “You could tell they were on the same page. They didn’t give us a whole lot of good looks coming up the ice. I’m sure they’re going to get even better at that as the year progresses.”
So, while a lot of outlets are focusing on the fact that Babcock didn’t win, the truth is that he did, in a way. Straight out of the gate his influence on the Toronto Maple Leafs is clear and, if this continues, they could really put themselves in contention to do great things. Already, it’s the start of an interesting season.