Last night’s Game of the Day between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Dallas Stars ended poorly for the road team, as the Stars won 3-0. Dallas had the game won after only a minute of play when Antti Niemi and Ales Hemsky assisted Mattias Janmark to his first goal of the season. Pittsburgh managed 37 shots on goal, but were unable to break Niemi, who earned his first shutout of the season. Two of Dallas‘ goals were a result of the power play, which certainly won’t make Mike Johnston happy, especially when the Pens couldn’t convert on any of their three.
Today, the NHL has five games on the schedule, including Winnipeg at New Jersey (7 p.m. eastern), the New York Rangers at Columbus (7 p.m. eastern), Chicago at the New York Islanders (7:30 p.m. eastern) and Arizona at Los Angeles (10:30 p.m. eastern).
Regardless of how those games may go, the one I’m most interested in tonight is at 7:30 eastern in Hockeytown, when the Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Detroit Red Wings.
There’s a ton of story lines that go with this game. A few of the easy ones: It’s Detroit‘s first game of the season… it’s an Original Six matchup… it’s a divisional rivalry, the first of four games between the squads and the first of two in Motown this season… But we all know the most important factor about this game is that Mike Babcock, new head coach of the Leafs, will return to Joe Louis Arena to coach against the same team he led to the playoffs in all 10 of his seasons as head coach and won the Stanley Cup with in 2008, for the first time in the regular season.
Babcock’s career in Detroit is certainly not one worth laughing at. In addition to leading the team to 10 playoff appearances in his 10 seasons (do the math, kids. That’s good.) and winning Detroit‘s 11th cup, Babcock coached the team for a total of 909 games (786 regular season [third in team history], 123 playoff), winning 458 regular season games (leads team) and 67 playoff games (second in team history), and outright losing 223 regular season games (third most in team history) and 56 playoff games (most in team history). His .649 regular season winning percentage ranks fifth in team history, while his .545 postseason winning percentage is second best in team history.
Luckily for Babcock, this won’t technically be his first time coaching against the Wings, or even his first time coaching against them in Detroit, as Toronto and Detroit played a home-and-home series to end the preseason. That being said, a crowd in the preseason is nowhere near the size, nor has the same amount of energy, as a regular season crowd.
I think it’s safe to expect a relatively positive response from Red Wings fans when Babcock’s name is announced before the game since the team and coach separated on mutual terms, but I expect a rowdy crowd for the full 60 minutes of action as fans try to propel their team past their ex-leader.
Detroit is heavily favored to win this one (not as much as Los Angeles over Arizona, though!), which means I’m immediately pulling for Toronto because I love to pull underdog… or plant-life, in this case. That being said, I think the Wings will grab two points in this one.