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Head coach Mike Babcock on lineup changes, Sidney Crosby and the scrutinizing of his team

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Canada forward Patrick Marleau (12) tries to score on Austria goaltender Bernhard Starkbaum (29) as defenceman Thomas Pock (22) looks on during second period round robin men's hockey action at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Friday, in Sochi, Russia.

NATHAN DENETTE / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Canada forward Patrick Marleau (12) tries to score on Austria goaltender Bernhard Starkbaum (29) as defenceman Thomas Pock (22) looks on during second period round robin men's hockey action at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Friday, in Sochi, Russia.

SOCHI, Russia - Mike Babcock entered with a smile on his face. That grin began to slip after he was peppered with questions about his lineup plans, including who will start in goal Sunday. Babcock shook it off, and managed to leave the media session with that playful smirk back on his face as he headed off to watch some curling.

Team Canada took a day off the ice but Babcock was made available to the media and dealt with a number of issues. Canada is 2-0 and next plays Sunday against Finland.

Here are some highlights from his scrum.

On what lineup changes he’ll make:

"I’ve got lots of plans, but the day is young. I haven’t been to curling yet. I haven’t been to the Russian game. We’ll see what happens. To me, we want to have the best team so the stats on any one player don’t matter to me and I don’t think they matter that much to the players. If you ask me enough questions and we stay here until nine o’clock you might get something from me. We’re talking about lineup tomorrow."

Sidney Crosby’s line has failed to score so far in the tournament:

"The first line in the last two games has generated a ton of scoring chances, point-blankers, they haven’t gone in. Do we worry that much about that or do we just know good players score in the end? Lots of times in the Stanley Cup playoffs your team goes a ways and your best players have no points in the first round. Someone else picks them up, but by the time it’s all over they’re leading the thing in scoring. It’s not about that, it’s about finding a way to be the best team."

Pittsburgh Penguins teammates Chris Kunitz and Crosby have played together so far but haven’t had any success on the scoreboard.

"From a purely statistical point of view you’d say no. From the way they played I think so. I think they do a lot of good things together. But we’re talking about one line. I’m not worried about one line. I’m worried about all the lines."

Will he shorten the bench against Finland:

"I’m not cutting the bench at all. Last Olympics I didn’t do it. I’ve purposefully not looked at that sheet that they give [media] so [they] can evaluate. I looked at it last time at the Olympics [and] it affected me because I felt like ‘Oh, this guy should play more.’ It said on the sheet after the game – I only know this because management told me – that evidently Carter played eight minutes in the game and had three goals. I don’t buy he played eight minutes. Are the times even right? So for me to worry about that makes no sense."

Has he liked the play of P.K. Subban: 

"He was fine. He’s a young player. He was fine. Subban can pass the puck. It’s unbelievable some of the things he can do. In saying all that, when we look at our group today we’ll be looking at what you can do with the puck and what you can do without the puck and finding the best synergy to allow us to win. Every one of these players when we talk about them, and that can be Sharp or it could’ve been Duchene or Hamhuis, those are the four that have been identified so far, but no one’s done anything wrong. Everyone’s played hard. They’re all very good players. Every guy would like to play more. 

Babcock stared Carey Price in goal for Game 1 the went to Roberto Luongo for Game 2. He was asked about the plan.

"I’ve had lots of time so we as a management team and a coaching staff, we watched the NHL all year and so then we picked the two goalies that we think have got an opportunity. We brought [Smith] to be in the role he’s in and now we’ll just go from here and watch. We did the same thing last time. We had a plan. We understand and I said this a number of times you get one change in this tournament and you can still win."

Will the lineup against Finland be his final group:

"No, I wouldn’t say that. I’d say I’m going to put the lineup tomorrow that gives us the best chance to win tomorrow. But if we need to change, that’s why we brought everyone. Now, if it’s not broke, why fix it? After Game 1 you could have said the lineup is fine, but we had that opportunity. So you’re right in assuming it’s getting … let’s face it, right away it’s Game 7. But we have one more game that it isn’t. In saying that, we’ve tried to win every game and we’re going to try to do that again. I’ve got a pretty good handle, we’ve talked about it lots on what we’re going to do. Yet I’ve found in our business there’s no sense making any decisions, I might find out someone’s got a groin pull, I might find out someone’s sick. There’s no sense me deliberating over things I don’t know about until I know here tonight." 

Has Babcock liked the fourth line of John Tavares, Patrice Bergeron and Jamie Benn: 

"I don’t know who the fourth line is. I put them out fourth and they might have been the best line. The third line, if Jonathan Toews is the matchup guy, they were the best line in Game 2. So (lines) 1 and 2 are due." 

Has he paid attention to all of the media and scrutinizing of his team:

"In 1997 I was coaching Canada at the world juniors and I was a young coach just getting started in my career. I didn’t know how bad I was getting beat up back in Canada as a coach and I don’t know if I would have been able to handle it. Now I’d be ready to handle it but I don’t look and I don’t care."

 

 

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @garylawless

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