Canada's head coach Babcock directs his team during their men's team ice hockey practice at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

In praise of Mike Babcock, who doesn’t want you to be confused

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SOCHI, Russia — “Does anybody know who won the scoring race? Does anybody care? Does anybody know who won the gold medal?”

And with that, Mike Babcock stood up and exited the press conference, once again the head coach of the Olympic champs.

Sure, it would’ve been cooler if he’d dropped the mic before leaving, but it was still a pretty great exit, so far as exits from press conferences go.

The only performance more impressive might have been the one his Team Canada gave here in Sochi. Six games. Six wins. The first team to go undefeated at the Olympics since the 1984 Soviets in Sarajevo.

And while Canada, with all that great offensive talent on its roster, only scored 17 times, it only allowed three. All. Tournament. Long.

On top of that, in the two games that mattered most, against the toughest competition, Canada didn’t surrender a single goal. It was a 1-0 win over the United States in Friday’s semifinals, and a 3-0 suffocation of Sweden in Sunday’s final.

Just don’t tell Babcock he played a “defensive” system. Because he doesn’t like that.

“When you talk about great defense, sometimes we get confused,” he said. “Great defense means you play defense fast and you have the puck all the time. We’re always on offense.

“Don’t get confused. We out-chanced these teams big time; we didn’t score. We were a great offensive team. That’s how we coached. That’s what we expected. That’s what we got. We didn’t ask guys to back up.”

Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman concurred.

“It wasn’t strictly playing defense,” he said. “We weren’t sitting in a shell. Part of our defense was being aggressive. Forechecking. Pressuring. Closing gaps. Not letting them get the red line, or get our blue line.”

You may recall a short time ago when Canada’s scoring ability was being called into question. Like after it only managed three goals versus minnow Norway. Or, after it escaped Finland with a 2-1 overtime win. Or, after another one-goal game versus Latvia in the quarterfinals, a 2-1 win that required a late tally from defenseman Shea Weber.

“No matter how hard people were on us that we weren’t scoring goals, we wanted to stick to our game and play hard defensively,” said Weber, crediting Babcock for maintaining the team’s belief in what it was doing.

“He just portrayed the message that it’s going to come. Defense wins championships. You’ve got to shut the other team’s top guys down and get timely scoring and you’re going to win.”

Meanwhile, forward Patrick Sharp praised Babcock for, not only a great game plan, but also infusing some timely good humor.

“He was one of the guys who was loose in the locker room, kept guys on their toes,” said Sharp.

Forward Jonathan Toews, who scored the game-winner versus Sweden, saw that too, and thought Babcock’s demeanor was an important contributor to the team’s success.

“I think that’s a big part of playing well is being loose and confident,” he said. “He wants that and I don’t think he ever overreacts to any situation. He’s always pretty calm on the bench. If you do something wrong, he lets you know right away, and he’s very detailed and to the point.”

Toews also lauded the coaching staff for getting buy-in from all the players, even the superstar offensive types who may have been prone to veering from the plan, if they weren’t convinced otherwise.

“As soon as we didn’t have possession (of the puck), we were working so hard to get it back,” he said. “We had some skilled, skilled forwards and d-men, but everyone was committed to playing a defensive game, and we created offense off it.”

Of course, according to forward Chris Kunitz, there wasn’t much choice but to obey the coaching staff’s rule. Not on a team as deep as Canada.

“They came here, gave you the information, expected you to understand it, and go on the ice and duplicate it,” he said. “And if you weren’t doing that, there was someone else going to be able to take your job.”

Now, let’s face it, Babcock had more great players to deploy than any coach at these Games, and he was more than willing to admit that.

“We had a good team,” he said, slightly understating the fact.

If Dan Bylsma and Zinetula Bilyaletdinov had the roster of Team Canada, maybe it would be one of them who made all the right moves, instead of all the wrong ones, apparently.

Still, coaching Canada has its own challenges. Gold as the only option. A cadre of stars, many of whom need to be used like role players, and need to accept that.

Two Olympics in a row now, Babcock has gotten the job done.

“It started in the summer when we went in there and we played ball hockey,” said Weber. “Everyone laughed at us. We went over systems.

“I think there might be a lot of teams that are going to try ball hockey now.”

PS – Phil Kessel won the scoring race.

Caps will get Oshie back tonight

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: T.J. Oshie #77 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his shorthanded goal with teammates against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at Verizon Center on November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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The Washington Capitals will get a welcomed injection of offense tonight when T.J. Oshie returns to the lineup against the Boston Bruins (on NBCSN).

Oshie has missed the last seven games with an upper-body injury. The Caps went 3-3-1 without him. In their last four games, they’ve scored just six times.

With eight goals, Oshie is the Caps’ third-leading goal-scorer, after Alex Ovechkin (12) and Marcus Johansson, whose 11th tally of the season beat the Sabres Monday in overtime.

Oshie is expected to skate on a line with Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom. Washington’s other top line will feature Ovechkin with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Justin Williams.

The Caps could really use some scoring from their bottom six, particularly from Andre Burakovsky and Lars Eller, who have just two goals each.

Rangers recall Jensen from AHL

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 04: Casey Cizikas #53 of the New York Islanders checsk Nicklas Jensen #39 of the New York Rangers during the first period at the Barclays Center on October 4, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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In the wake of injuries to Rick Nash (groin) and Matt Puempel (concussion), the New York Rangers have recalled winger Nicklas Jensen from AHL Hartford.

Jensen, 23, has yet to play a regular-season game for the Rangers since coming to the organization in a trade with Vancouver. The former first-round draft pick has eight goals and seven assists in 21 games for the Wolf Pack this season.

The Rangers’ next game is Thursday in Winnipeg. They’re expected to have Michael Grabner back by then, after he traveled to Austria for his grandmother’s funeral and missed last night’s loss to the Islanders.

     Read more: Jensen feeling good about his game

It remains to be seen if Jensen will be in the lineup tomorrow. But with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich also out injured, this may be an opportunity for Jensen to show he can score in the NHL.

The 29th overall pick in 2011, Jensen played 24 games for the Canucks but managed just three goals and three assists before he was traded last season for Emerson Etem.

Head coach Alain Vigneault said last night that he’d know more today about Nash’s status.

The Rangers also play Friday in Chicago.

Related: Despite winning record, Rangers ‘very aware’ they must be better

Fare thee well, John Scott

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For John Scott, the ride is officially over.

Scott, the longtime NHL enforcer that became a folk hero by capturing MVP honors at last year’s All-Star Game, officially announced his retirement from pro hockey on Wednesday.

From his piece in The Players’ Tribune:

It has been a hell of a ride. But I’m done. I am officially retired, as of today.

I scored five goals. I had four kids. And I had one hell of a good time over the years. By my count, I only had 43 fights in the NHL. I only really lost one clean, in my humble opinion. Congratulations, Justin Johnson. You caught me with the left hook. What can I say? Good job.

Can I just make a final confession, though? I don’t care what people remember about me as a hockey player, but please remember this one thing: I didn’t love to fight. The actual 30 seconds of fighting was fine. Your adrenaline takes over and the competition of battling at such a high level is actually enjoyable. The problem is all the anticipation of having to drop the gloves with another very skilled individual who can hurt you.

The waiting is what drives you crazy. It’s not very easy on your psyche, especially once you have a family.

PHT covered Scott fairly extensively at the 2016 ASG in Nashville.

If I had one significant takeaway, it was this:

Scott was a really bright guy. (Note: considering he’s a mechanical engineering alumnus from Michigan Tech, this might not be a “significant takeaway.” But bear with me.)

He was bright enough to realize how lucky he was to play in the All-Star Game, but he was also bright enough to realize the platform it provided. Everybody got to see the side of Scott that went well beyond the punching and grappling — he was a quick-witted, introspective, genuine person that was unbelievably appreciative of the opportunities he’d been provided.

Yes, he knew he spent the better part of 10 professional hockey campaigns beating up opponents, or intimidating them into thinking he might.

But that’s what he had to do to get to the sport’s highest apex. And he wanted to make it clear — that didn’t define him as a person. He didn’t love it, but he loved playing in the NHL, and never took a second of his time in the league for granted.

It’s a complex narrative to weave, though. Which is why John Scott wanted to write his own story.

So he did.

He’s now forever be a part of NHL history, which is great. The stats might not reflect an unforgettable player — 286 games, 11 points, 544 PIM — but there he is, etched in the record books alongside a list of All-Star MVPs that includes the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux.

That’s pretty cool.

Happy trails, John Scott.

NHL on NBCSN: Ovechkin will look to stay out of the box against Bruins

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 18: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals collides with Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on October 21, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Bruins defeated the Capitals 4-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Washington Capitals host the Boston Bruins at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

The Capitals put an end to their three-game losing streak by defeating the Buffalo Sabres in overtime on Monday night, but the biggest thing that came out of that game was coach Barry Trotz’s criticism of Alex Ovechkin.

“If it’s going on again, then there’s not going to be a lot of power play and playing time,” Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “If my message is not getting through, then the only thing I have is really ice time.”

On Tuesday, Ovechkin, who has five minor penalties in his last three games, had a chance to respond to his coach’s comments.

“Obviously, I have to be on the ice and not in the penalty box,” Ovechkin said. “It’s a good thing we talk. It’s my mistakes, and I just have to handle it and don’t take those penalties.”

Washington’s captain seems to have taken the criticism in stride, and we’ll see if Trotz’s message gets through to him right away.

Beyond the Ovechkin story line, the Capitals have surprisingly had a difficult time scoring goals.

With names like Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and company, you’d think that they’d be willing to fill the net with ease. Instead, Washington currently sits 23rd in goals for with 61.

They’ll be going head-to-head with the team that’s scored the same amount of goals, the Boston Bruins.

Boston’s inability to score with regularity was a little easier to predict than Washington’s, but they’re hoping that their latest 4-3 OT win over the Panthers will give them a spark.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said David Backes, per CSN New England. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.”

One Bruin who isn’t struggling, is David Pastrnak. The 20-year-old has been one of the pleasant surprises of the 2016-17 season.

He’s already scored 15 goals in 21 games, which puts him on pace to find the back of the net an incredible 55 times.

This should be a great one!