DETROIT — Many of the Wings are huge Detroit Tigers fans, including Mike Babcock and Jimmy Howard.
Both were asked about the pressure of a win-or-go-home game.
“It’s way more nerve wracking to watch them play than to coach us I can tell you that,” Babcock said. “(Anibal) Sanchez started the night before and then I had to laugh when they asked (Jim) Leyland and it’s, ‘well he’s my guy.’ When Howie’s getting bombed 6-1 in the playoffs what do you do? He’s our guy. And I thought it was awesome bringing (Max Scherzer) off the bench yesterday because if you don’t win Game 4 forget about saving a starter for Game 5 then you have (Justin) Verlander. To me it was exciting stuff.”
The Tigers forced a Game 5 after beating Oakland in Game 4, 8-6.
“The other thing, attitude is contagious, work ethic is contagious, hitting’s contagious, scoring is contagious and once they got a couple of hits the guys got confidence, it’s exactly the same thing in our game,” Babcock said. “Then you get feeling it, you get some swagger back and you get up there and the ball looks big again. That’s what I watch when I’m watching the game. It’s the same thing, it’s a bunch of guys competing. The other team’s competing too.
“Last year in the playoffs when Howie had Corey Perry’s number,” Babcock continued. “It’s not like Corey Perry didn’t have 100 chances, Howie had him. It’s like a pitcher that’s got you. Yesterday when they got to the bullpen to me that’s a sign of good things to come. Go Tigers.”
Babcock also is a big fan of Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
“One of the best stories I have of Jim Leyland, I was asking him about walking out there and saying you’re done (to a pitcher and how it felt) and he said, ‘I’ve pulled better pitchers than that,’” Babcock recalled. “The reality of what he’s telling you it’s not about the guy, but he’s making decisions for the team. What I like is he does what’s right. He doesn’t let the fans coach the team, he doesn’t let the media coach the team, he does what he’s supposed to do. To me that’s what it’s all about you make these decisions based on experience and you go with your gut and your gut is based on a track record of being steady on the rudder and winning. You don’t win over and over again, you don’t become a serial winner like he is by accident so you do the right things and good things happen.”
Howard was at Game 4.
“It was a blast,” Howard said. “Let me tell you, in those situations, it’s fun being a fan. Just sitting there cheering and now the one being in that situation. It was just fun cheering them on. That game was awesome to be a part of last night. It was amazing to watch Sherzer pitch out of that jam.”
Howard faced the same situation in Game 7 last season against the Chicago Blackhawks that the Wings eventually lost in overtime.
“Usually when I’m out there I just play and whatever happens happens,” Howard said. “I wasn’t nervous (in Game 7 last year). Just one of those things you go out there and you play. You play hard and leave it all out there on the ice. For me, being in Game 7s and in overtimes, I just don’t get nervous. It’s a lot tougher to watch, just being in the stands and sitting in the stands I think it’s more nerve wracking watching than it is playing.”