Babcock makes masterful move in Game 7 win

Earlier in their quarterfinal playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock scoffed at the importance of matching up lines.

“When your guys play good, whether you’re at home or on the road, a lot of things happen,” Babcock told reporters before Game 3. “The better your team does, the more in control you are.”

“When he (the opponent) starts chasing the game, you get all the matchups you want.”

Unless your team is playing on the road in the seventh game of a playoff series.

Babcock’s tinkering won Game 7 Sunday in Anaheim.

When he split up Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk for the winner-take-all game, the Ducks were . . . eh, cooked.

Even though Babcock has split up his dynamic duo before, it appeared Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau and his players were stunned by the separation of the Wings’ two best players.

Anaheim looked confused and disjointed throughout the game, and the Wings were clicking on cylinders.

The move also energized struggling forward Valtteri Filppula, who scored his first goal of the series and had an assist on Zetterberg’s tally at the 1:49 mark of the first period.

With Zetterberg playing with Filppula, and Daniel Cleary and Datsyuk centering Johan Franzen and Justin Abdelkader, Detroit had two offensive lines that the Ducks had no answer for.

After Abdelkader was suspended for two games, Babcock was asked about replacing his spot on the Wings’ top line with Franzen.

Babcock balked at that suggestion, saying that would make the Wings a one-line team. He didn’t want to give the Ducks the easy tasks of just defending one line.

But after Game 1, all that was talked about was the stifling job that Saku Koivu, Daniel Winnik and Andrew Cogliano did on Datsyuk and Zetterberg.

Babcock just let everybody talk. His unassuming nature toward matching up lines seemed to lull the Ducks into a false comfort zone.

He was lying in the weeds, a snake in the grass just waiting for the opportunity to deliver a devastating head-shot to the Ducks.

That’s what occurred Sunday in Anaheim, a legal blow to Anaheim’s head. Mentally the Ducks just couldn’t recover from Babcock’s simple maneuver of splitting up Datsyuk and Zetterberg.

Babcock is not a warm-and-fuzzy guy. He’s not going to put his arm around his players and offer fatherly coaching advice.  

He will, however, put his players in the best position to win.

That’s all you can ask from your coach.