Henrik Zetterberg remembers another time when his coach tried to break him.
His Red Wings were in Minnesota this season, sweating out a practice, and Mike Babcock decided to make a point. The night before, Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk — Detroit’s two star forwards — had let their shifts creep up to average over a minute.
So the coach skated them hard in a series of one-minute sprints; repeating it over and over till their legs burned.
“We had to skate the length of our shifts. My shift lengths were 1:01,” recalled Zetterberg. “We were bag skating for a minute, seven or eight times. And he said, ‘You can’t play like this.’ We pretty much agreed. He’s been on us a few times over the year.”
Babcock was on his stars again yesterday, re-emphasizing that less is more when it comes to ice time. In Wednesday’s Stanley Cup final game in Pittsburgh, Zetterberg’s ice time drifted up to an average of 51 seconds over 29 shifts. Datsyuk averaged 50 seconds over 27 shifts.
“We want them to play that many shifts but we want the tempo coming off our bench to be better,” Babcock said.
It’s easier said then done.
“Sometimes if you’ve been on there for 30 seconds and you have a chance to go out for another rush, it’s tough to go to the bench,” said Zetterberg.
Ice time would be less of an issue if Zetterberg and Datsyuk were actually producing. But Detroit’s two big gunners have only one goal — from Zetterberg — in the first three games of the Stanley Cup final. They were held pointless in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss.