Mike Babcock’s post-game comments after his team’s dramatic come-from-behind 4-3 OT victory in Game 3 against Washington.
The turning point for your club the 5-on-3 kill and maybe Nazem’s pair of hits?
Babcock: Obviously, we didn’t start the way he wanted. I didn’t think we were terrible but our reads defensively all night weren’t very good. We gave up bell ringers to start. We gave Freddy no chance. Then, obviously, you go down 3-1 and you’ve got the 5 on 3… it’s a big moment in the game. The game is over if they score. That was a huge kill for us. Then, of course, we took another penalty. We had lots of energy tonight, let’s just say that.
How do you think your guys are doing in terms of handling the emotions of the playoffs and three straight overtime games?
Babcock: I thought today was… For whatever reason, we were amped up, for whatever reason. We had tonnes of energy. Energy wasn’t a problem. We probably should’ve played longer the other night. But getting to the right spots and being there and stopping there was a bit of a problem. We’ll get that sorted out. Great crowd. City is fired up. The young guys are fired up and want to do well. I thought we played with lots of energy and lots of emotion. We’ve just got to play a little more detailed.
It’s hard for a lot of coaches to trust rookies in situations. You’ve got three of them on a line. What prompted you to do that and keep them together the whole season?
Babcock: I talked to Matty at the start. It is a lot easier to come in the National Hockey League and play on the wing. He didn’t want to do that. We didn’t want to do it. We only have so many veterans. They can only go in so many spots. I wanted Bozie to play with James and Leo to play with Naz. There weren’t a whole lot of other options. That’s basically what it was. Hyman and Brown, as much as they are kids and that, they’re dependable. They do it right every day. That gives you a couple more. Even though you don’t consider them veterans, they’re veteran-like people with veteran-like habits because they do it right all the time. You know, I don’t consider it… I think that line is a load, and I think it’s a good one.
The tying goal demonstrate the skills of the three of them?
Babcock: I just thought they were good all night. I thought, territorially, they controlled the play a lot. They had a lot of possession time. I thought they were dangerous. I thought they were skating. I think Matty has been good right through. I thought this was Willy’s best game. He had the best legs he’s had. Hyman is just the same every day. Just another day for him. That line was good.
You talked a lot before the series about dealing with pressure against a team in Washington’s position. Do you think, through three games, you’ve succeeded in putting pressure on them?
Babcock: I don’t know much about that. What we’re trying to do is play the best we can, obviously. Initially, you’re trying to win game one. That didn’t happen. I thought we gained confidence in Game 1 because it showed we could play. And then Game 2 was a big confidence booster for us. Obviously now, if you talk to our guys, our guys think they’re a good hockey team. I think you gain respect for yourself and the process and you start believing that maybe you can do this. We’ve got to get regrouped tomorrow and get back on track and get ready for a big game. It’s going to be a huge game for us going back into our building.
Speaking of that growing confidence… you’re down 3-1. The 5-on-3 was big, but they sort of stayed with it. What was your sense on the bench?
Babcock: I thought we had a real good kill. It was pretty evident. It’s not hard for the guys to figure out we’re not playing right. They know how to play. We knew we weren’t doing what we were supposed to do. We felt, once we got doing what we were supposed to be doing, the game turned our way. We think we’re quick. We really do. We think we’re quick. We think we know how to play. We’ve got lots of guys who play hard. We’ve got good energy and good depth.