Mike Babcock: “The best night (as coach) I’ve had since I’ve been here by ten miles. Not even close”


On the result and Auston Matthews taking ownership for the game-losing goal:

Mike Babcock: Tough end for our team; I don’t know about Auston. We’re all a part of history tonight because we’re here. Special player. I thought, just for me from my perspective, since I’ve been Leafs coach that’s the best night I’ve had since I’ve been here by ten miles. Not even close, because now we have an opportunity when you look at Marner… I thought Marner – I know Matthews scored all the goals – in the first half of the game might have been the best player. I thought Nylander was great. I thought Hyman was great. I thought Brown was great. I thought Carrick was great. I thought Zaitsev was great. A pretty good night for us. Do we want the other point? Absolutely. The way we controlled the puck and controlled the game — you’ve got to win and we didn’t.

Auston’s exact words were that the “overtime goal was totally his fault.” Is that kind of accountability part of what makes him special?

Babcock: No question. Not only that. He’s a man. He’s 19 years old but he acts like he’s 27. He’s got great maturity. If you meet his mom and dad, you’re thoroughly impressed with the kind of people they are, and then the respect he has for his mom and his sisters and the kind of guy he is. Don’t get me wrong, we’d have drafted him anyway, but that makes it more special.

You’ve been around this league a long time. How tough is it to make that kind of impact in your first game?

Babcock: I don’t even know. I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s a good player. When you see that second goal he scored – not many guys do that. We’re fortunate we have him, and yet we can be way, way better than we were tonight and we’re going to get way better.

How would you assess Andersen’s play tonight?

Babcock: Not good enough, but he’d be the first to tell you that. The thing about goaltending is they pick you up lots of nights and some nights you’ve got to pick them up. That’s just the way it is. That might be the most comfortable position on our team if you’re me. So I’m not going to spend any time worrying about that. We’re just going to get on with it. He’ll get himself going. He missed quite a bit of hockey. I don’t have any concerns about him.

What did you see from the team behind the blueline in the defensive zone?

Babcock: I never thought that was that bad. We lost Hunwick early in the game, so suddenly you’re in your first game and you’re playing five D. But you go through that game… if you just want to go through the chances, it’s not close.

What is Hunwick’s status?

Babcock: He missed the game.

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