Author: Jason Brough

Mike Babcock

Is Babcock really going to Toronto?


According to USA Today, Mike Babcock will not return as head coach of the Detroit Red Wings.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, he will not be signing with the Buffalo Sabres.

According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, he will not be signing with the San Jose Sharks.

Aaaaaand according to TSN’s Darren Dreger, he will not be signing with the St. Louis Blues

And that leaves — yep — the Toronto Maple Leafs as the favorites to land the free-agent coach.

Nothing is official yet, but we all know how much money the Leafs have to spend, and we all know Babcock has an extreme amount of confidence in his abilities.

Enough confidence to take a job that many feel is the biggest challenge out there?

If it actually happens, just don’t say you weren’t warned.

Coach Cooper explains why Stamkos is a winger now

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Rangers - Game One

The best thing about playing the wing is that you don’t have the same defensive responsibilities that centers do.

That’s the lazy man’s take, at least. (And coming from a blogger, an appropriate one.)

But it’s also why Steven Stamkos has been shifted to the wing, according to Lightning coach Jon Cooper.

“The one thing I thought, he’s spending too much time in the [defensive] zone, and he’s spending way too much energy down there,” Cooper said this morning ahead of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final versus the Rangers.

“So to free him up a little bit, and let him get out of the zone a little faster and not have to play the whole 200 feet, I thought was something that was going to save his legs and give him a little more time.”

Lately, Stamkos has been centered by Valtteri Filppula, with Alex Killorn on the opposite wing.

“To have a player like Fil who can control the puck the way he does, ” said Cooper, “he sees the ice, he can get those pucks to Stammer. He’s somebody that transports the puck really well.”

Frankly, Stamkos has always struck me more as a winger than a center. The three forwards that had the most shots during the regular season (Alex Ovechkin, Rick Nash, Max Pacioeretty) are all wingers. It’s a position that lends itself to players with good shots, and Stamkos certainly has one of those. He just needs more opportunities to use it.

Related: Stamkos doesn’t mind winging it

Despite huge minutes for some, Blackhawks will be ‘ready to get right back at it’

Chicago Blackhawks v Anaheim Ducks - Game Two

For the second time in these playoffs, Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith logged over 45 minutes of ice time.

The actual number in Tuesday’s Game 2 of the Western Conference Final, a 3-2 Chicago victory in triple overtime, was 49:51. That’s only a few minutes more than the 46:19 he received in Game 4 of the first round versus Nashville, another triple OT win.

In 12 playoff games, Keith has averaged a remarkable 32:02. And the “freak” hasn’t been the only workhorse on the back end. Brent Seabrook (26:15), Niklas Hjalmarsson (26:11), and Johnny Oduya (26:07) have also been eating up the minutes.

Meanwhile, Kimmo Timonen and Kyle Cumiskey each played sparingly (relatively speaking) last night, logging 16:45 and 18:34, respectively.

The former, at 40 years old and after missing most of the regular season, has struggled to keep up since joining the Blackhawks in a late-season trade. Lacking the mobility that was once a trademark of his game, he’s been hit, and hit hard, multiple times by the Ducks.

The latter was making his 2015 playoff debut (replacing David Rundblad, who’d previously come in for Michal Rozsival) and, other than one near disastrous giveaway, actually held his own.

“Everybody had significant minutes, no matter who you were in that game,” coach Joel Quenneville said afterwards.

“I’m sure everybody will be tired and relaxed over tomorrow’s day, and then I’m sure everybody will be looking forward to Thursday. 

“Right now, it’s one of those games, the minutes look skewed when you look at it, but the game is what it is. Guys recover between periods, although they even have shorter intermissions, too. 

“It’s a good test, but I think our team’s gone through that more than once and are ready to get right back at it.”

Time will tell if all those minutes eventually catch up to the Blackhawks. This series is guaranteed to go at least three more games, and the Ducks, in stark contrast, have confidence in all six of their defensemen.