It’s an honour to earn praise from any NHL head coach, but there’s a little extra significance when it comes from one with a resume as brilliant as Mike Babcock’s.
One Stanley Cup, two Olympic gold medals and too many winning seasons to count, Babs has both coached, and coached against some of the best talent in the world, so logically any compliment from him shouldn’t be taken with a grain of salt. With his team gearing up to face the Tampa Bay Lightning, Babs shared basically as flattering of a comment as it gets about one of his opponents and you could probably guess it was about MVP favourite Nikita Kucherov.
With 110 points in just 68 games, Kucherov has been on an absolute tear this season and has haunted the Leafs with a goal and two assists through two games. It’s no secret that he’s outplayed all-stars such as Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby this season, at least that’s what Babs seems to think. He went on to call the Russian the ‘most dangerous guy in hockey right now’ while addressing him ahead of Monday night’s contest.
And dangerous he’s been! Kuch Is coming off of a February in which he totaled 25 points in 15 games; 18 of which came in five from February 10 to February 18. So far he has six through March, so saying the guy has been ‘dangerous’ might actually be an understatement.
It turns out that Kucherov’s strong play has even been inspiring some players in the Leafs’ farm system. Over the weekend, Leafs prospect and Toronto Marlies forward Dmytro Timashov pulled off the 25-year-old’s infamous ‘no move’ deke to perfection. Not an easy thing to do by any means.
Like basically every other coach in the NHL, you can count on Babcock to keep a particularly close eye on Kucherov on Monday night.
(H/T Pierre LeBrun)