Mike Babcock met with the media after practice on Monday to discuss Auston Matthews’ game versus Pittsburgh, lowering shots against, the team’s progress after 15 games, and more.
What have you seen from Auston in terms of his play away from the puck defensively?
Mike Babcock: I think he’s been good. I thought last game was one of his best games to tell you the truth. I thought him, Hyman and Brown were real good. Played most of the game against Malkin. Malkin wasn’t in many of the chances. They had a lot of heavy shifts and good opportunities. He did a real good job there.
In terms of structure, how does your club get better to cut down on the shots against?
Babcock: We’ve got to keep working at it, obviously. We’ve talked a lot about it. I thought we had done a lot of good things, and yet any time we’ve been fatigued at all we look like our mind goes a little bit. We were porous in our own zone against Pittsburgh. To me, it was evident in some of the chances we gave up. We’ve got to get way better defensively. We focused on it again today. We’ve focused on it lots, anyway, but the message, ideally, is going to get there. And then we’ll be able to play better with the puck because we’ll have it more.
In terms of growth, is there where you thought you’d be 15 games in?
Babcock: I’ll tell you what I’ll say publicly here so it sounds alright. The guys and I kind of have a set of goals that we have for our club this year. We’ve talked a lot about it. We think we’re in a real good spot. It’s important to be in a good spot after 20 games, just because it’s hard to catch up. We’re right there with the group. We’d like to have a few more points than we do, but in saying that, we’re right there. We’ve got a big segment. We’ve just finished our last segment there, and we’ve got a big five-game segment coming up here before American Thanksgiving that it’s important we play well in.
Any update on Zach Hyman not skating today?
Babcock: Yeah, he should be good.
You added a clock there on the red line just to make sure the practices don’t go too long, or just an extra clock?
Babcock: I can’t seem to ever find the other one. When I went to Chicago, I saw [Joel Quenneville] had one like that. I saw it in the morning skate, and I said, “we should be able to afford clocks like that.” So we got them.
How does that happen? Do you stop at Canadian Tire on the way in?
Babcock: I don’t know. I came off, and I said to [Andrew Brewer], “Brew, I like Q’s clock. Get me some.” Next thing you know, I have three of them. How’s that?
You mentioned U.S. Thanksgiving. Is there a very real kind of measuring point?
Babcock: Well, it’s 20 games. I got that from Kenny Holland. I never thought of it myself. Every year, if you’re out, she’s a long climb. I’m not talking one point or something like that, but if you’ve buried yourself, it’s a hard way to come back There are a lot of teams, as you can see, that are very competitive. It’s going to be a battle. We understand that. But we also think our team is going to get better just with our youth. We have to get better. That’s a good sign as long as we can stay in the hunt.
How do you deal with a mobile Predators defense tomorrow night?
Babcock: The big thing is we just have to play well. We’ve had lots of mobile groups in here. If we play right, we end up having the puck a lot and they play in their zone. If we don’t play right, we play a lot in our zone.
How has defense led to offense for Nazem Kadri?
Babcock: I just think, when you’re playing against good players and you play right, you don’t spend a lot of time in your own zone and you end up getting chances because they take chances. That didn’t happen for Leo and Naz last game. They spent too much time [in their own zone]. If you win faceoffs and play well defensively, you end up spending a lot of time [in their end]. Guys who want to score – they tend to once in a while cheat for offense, so you get your opportunities.
When he’s playing well, what is he doing right?
Babcock: He’s competitive in the circle. He’s looking after defense. He takes what they give him, and he stays patient and he gets his opportunities.