What did you think of your team’s performance tonight — your first time really seeing them?
Mike Babcock: We won. There was lots of skill. We turned the puck over just for fun. On the outside way too much. Not workmanlike, but we’ll learn how to play. Lots of guys playing their first game, kind of thing. You’re at home. We obviously have to get a lot better, and yet we had the puck a lot. Didn’t score. Were on the outside instead of the inside. There are still lots of good players.
So far a lot of offense from defense. It’s kind of been a theme in camp. Is that something you like?
Babcock: Well, if the forwards won’t shoot it, it’s going to be hard for them to score, right? They tried passing it into the net tonight. I think, obviously, those things will even out over time. Obviously, Hunwick is not really known [as a scorer]. He’s got three goals in preseason. It’s all part of it. What I saw tonight is we have a different skillset tonight than we did last year. We don’t know how to play yet. We were perimeter and light, in my opinion, at times and didn’t attack the net. We liked having the puck. We thought they were handing out points for stickhandling instead of shooting and getting on the inside and scoring goals.
How much of that is youth?
Babcock: Part of it. We’ll get it figured out.
Do you think Zaitsev will have difficulty adjusting and playing on the smaller ice?
Babcock: Nope. He’s a good player. To me, of all the kids there — Zaitsev is not a kid, but — he was the best of that group tonight by far.
What did you think of Auston overall?
Babcock: Lots of skill. They’re going to have to… they’ll figure it out. I mean, that’s all part of it.
Will that require more patience on your part?
Babcock: Those guys want to score. They want to get points. They’re going to figure out that all this stickhandling on the outside isn’t going to get that done in the National Hockey League. They’ll figure it out quick.
Your goaltending/team defense — three goals in three regulation games.
Babcock: They’re not NHL lineups. We’re optimistic we’ll get some NHL lineups coming up and that’ll give you a better estimate of your team.
Garret Sparks has had a good preseason so far, made some key saves tonight. What have you seen in terms of his progression through the preseason since last year?
Babcock: Sparky has ability for sure. He’s just got to learn to be a good pro. On second saves, he can’t be on his butt. He’s got to be squared up and facing, and those are things he’ll learn over time.
You mentioned different skillset — what’s the biggest difference? Is it speed?
Babcock: Skill. Biggest difference. We’ve got way more skill, period. Skating, shooting, stickhandling, hockey sense. More skill.