Mike Babcock met with the media ahead of the meeting with the Boston Bruins on Saturday night, talking Freddie Andersen, the team’s speed, Matt Hunwick’s injury status, and Morgan Rielly not playing the powerplay yet.
Before Freddie Andersen signed here, what did you know about him and what gave you confidence that he could be the guy here?
Mike Babcock: I just looked at his sheet. Saw the numbers. Saw that he was 6’4. Saw him play good every time we kind of watched him on tape. Talked to players on his team. Did lots of things. That’s why we’re as comfortable as we are with the decision we made.
He’s obviously a capable puck handler. How much of a benefit could that be once the defense [and him get on the same page]?
Babcock: I think once you get organized… What you have to do is get your conditioning and all that sort of stuff back, and get your rhythm back, and then we’ll worry about the puck handling after that. In the meantime, it’s the sequence of events. Get yourself comfortable, and then we can keep going. We work on it lots. We work on it every pre-game skate. I don’t think it’s the same once a guy gets comfortable.
The way the speed of practice continues to wrap up on a day to day basis – it’s wild to watch, the quickness and the speed with which everyone is doing it at.
Babcock: We’re way quicker. It’s pretty apparent we’re way quicker. Guys that were quick last year are quick this year. That’s really good. Then, we got some guys who just flat out work every single day and they push the pace for the other guys – which I think is really good. Obviously we’re going way quicker than we were last year at this point, but we’re going to have to get a lot quicker yet. We think that can be a dimension for our team. With Soshnikov and Kapanen in the minors being as quick as they are, those are more guys to come.
Do you think that speed and skill is the biggest difference in the league now that it’s so much younger than it was five, seven, ten years ago?
Babcock: There are tonnes of differences in the league, but we don’t have time and I don’t want to explain it all to you. What I would say is, obviously the pace is really, really high, and the room is less and less and less. As they get bigger and faster, the room gets less. The goalies get bigger, so the nets get smaller. The ice is really getting smaller for that matter, so that’s been a big part of it.
It’s going to be a great ceremony tomorrow, but it’s also going to be a long one. At what point are you guys going to go out? You aren’t going to stand for a long time, I guess.
Babcock: I don’t spend my time worrying about the game production. We’re going to come out and get introduced, they’re going to sing the national anthems, and we’re going to play. The rest of that stuff is for the fans.
Do you think Hunwick will be in the lineup tomorrow?
Babcock: He tells me he is good to go. We’ll see tomorrow.
With Rielly being comfortable on the left and right, how big of an advantage is that for you? And transitioning Marty kind of feels that way, too.
Babcock: We’ve been playing Marty – all last year, when he started with Rielly — on the right-hand side, and Rielly on the left. I like Rielly on the left way better, so that’s why we’re trying to play him there as much as we can.
Do you see him getting on the powerplay later in the year, like last season?
Babcock: Yeah. Sure.
Is it the same kind of deal as last year? You don’t want to overload him too much?
Babcock: I guess I’ll say it like this — [Rielly] and I have talked. How’s that?