Once upon a time, Anton Babchuk was a superstitious hockey player.
Maybe too superstitious.
If he had a big night, the routine had to be exactly the same for the next game. Nothing ever worked for long, though.
Now with some veteran savvy, the 26-year-old from Kiev, Ukraine, doesn’t make himself crazy with precise habits.
Some would suggest Babchuk shouldn’t change anything in his preparation for Calgary Flames games these days, seeing how hot he’s been in the past few weeks.
“Over time, you realize it’s just all in your head,” Babchuk said. “It doesn’t really matter. It never makes you play better. It’s just in your head.
“I just take good care of myself on and off the ice. That’s it. It’s not superstitious. It’s more of an athlete’s routine. We have to take care of ourselves on and off the ice.”
In the past eight games, the blueliner has eight points, including four goals, the latest a 55-ft. slapshot Friday night to open his team’s scoring in a 4-3 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks.
With the way he can rifle the puck, teammates have started calling Babchuk ‘Boom-boom.’
His goal against the Sharks was a bit of a stunner as he just stepped over the blueline, used a defenceman as a screen and ripped it into the bottom corner.
Flames blueliner Mark Giordano, a fellow hard blaster, wasn’t surprised.
“With his heavy shot, he should be shooting whenever he gets the chance,” Giordano said. “You don’t see too many go in from out there. He has a pretty heavy shot, so when he picks the corners, it’s usually tough for the goalie to make the save.”
Babchuk said his shot came naturally to him, and he’s always been known at the guy who can rifle the puck. It’s basically his gift.
“The biggest thing I worked at was making sure it went where I wanted it to go,” Babchuk said. “A hard shot was a given, but accuracy wasn’t. It takes time to make it go where you want.”
Babchuk came to the Flames Nov. 17 along with Tom Kostopoulos in exchange for blueliner Ian White and forward Brett Sutter.
The four-player swap with Carolina has worked out to be one of Darryl Sutter’s better deals over the past few years.
Babchuk took some time to get accustomed to playing with his new teammates, then had to make a recent switch in defence partners.
When Adam Pardy went out with a shoulder injury, Steve Staios stepped into a new partnership with Babchuk.
Staios provides a stay-at-home presence and lets Babchuk jump in with some offence.
Now, he’s found a comfort zone and is contributing to a playoff push.
“He’s been getting big goals for our team and making big plays,” Giordano said. “It’s really nice to see.
“He’s doing a lot of things right, and really, that shot is a weapon. It’s a good thing for our team.”