Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice in Ottawa on Friday, discussing Frederik Andersen’s decision to call out his teammates in the media after the loss to the Flyers, the team’s internal accountability, playing through adversity, and more.
The obvious message is that the team can be better. Do you regroup over 18 hours and then get ready now for Ottawa?
Babcock: For sure. But I don’t think they needed me to send a message. All you’ve got to do is watch yourself. I think we made it clear on video today that… You know, Hitch told me a long time ago, “If you don’t put your work before your skill, you have no chance to win.” To me, that’s clear as I watch people skate by us. Sometimes you’ve got to wait for those moments. I thought we had good feistiness in our group post-game and some good internal accountability stuff, which – to me – I’m always looking for. To me, that’s the first sign you might be able to actually do something. I thought we had that yesterday, so that’s positive.
What is Morgan Rielly’s status for tomorrow?
Babcock: Yeah, I don’t know. We’ll know more tomorrow. We’ll just give him the day off today and we’ll know more tomorrow.
Upper body or lower body?
Babcock: Upper body.
Speaking of internal accountability, Frederik Andersen sort of spoke up about that last night. Are you happy to see someone vocalize what you’re saying as well?
Babcock: It’s one thing when I say it. It’s a whole other thing when a good player on your team says it. This is just me – I just assumed you guys liked the way he did it. I just assume you walk in, grab the coach, grab the staff, grab everybody, shut the door and do it in-house. But I was all for anybody… We had some of that go on during the game, too, so I thought it was a real positive thing for our team yesterday. I think that is important in taking a step. I think adversity is an unbelievable thing in life. It’s a springboard for opportunity. It just depends on how you embrace it.
Jake seemed to be kind of knocking himself. He said on the one play he did the wrong thing and then he had that in his head, and then last night he does the wrong thing. How would you like to have seen him play it and how do you sort of deal with that for his own confidence?
Babcock: We have a real strict way about how we do it and we didn’t do it. But both of those plays in both games could’ve been 2-on-2s and not 2-on-1s, so that is the more important issue. But obviously, you’ve got to play those situations right. We’ve been through it a number of times and we’ll go through it again and make it very clear to everybody. As long as we are all on the same page, it doesn’t happen. Now, once in a while, they make a good play.
In the hindsight with all of that, we had the same play and made the pass and the goalie made an unbelievable save with two minutes left. If you score, everything is rosy. But it’s not really rosy. Sometimes the results being what you deserve is what you deserve.
Komarov consistently plays really important minutes for you. What is it about his skill set that makes him so valuable?
Babcock: This is what I like different than a lot of people. I believe you empower the people that do it right every day and work hard every day and set the example for people. When you do things right every day, the people on your team and your teammates respect what you’re doing. If you just empower the skill, pretty soon your team doesn’t play at all. That’s why we do it.
You’re still comfortable in the playoff race. You keep moving ahead, and even though you’ve had some losses, is it harder to guard down against letdowns in places?
Babcock: No, not at all. We’re a proud group that thinks we have an opportunity. Right now, with the way it’s going, that opportunity doesn’t look as good as a couple of weeks ago. In saying all of that, I look around the divisions. With the exception of one division, we’d be right there at the top of every division. But we think we’re not living up to what we could do. To me, that’s the whole key about expectation. You earn the right to have expectation. You earn the right for that pressure that causes you duress when you don’t do things well. That’s an opportunity. It depends on how you embrace it.
I think this is great for our team. Now we’ve got to respond, though. Hey, if you tailspin forever, it isn’t any good. You’ve got to respond in these moments. But I really like the passion and the internal accountability that suddenly we have in our group.
You wanted everybody off the ice at the end of practice today. Is that preserving energy?
Babcock: No. That’s like, “Play at night.” You know what I mean? “You want to screw around, come out tomorrow at our optional skate and do that.” There is lots of ice time. We didn’t want to use it last night.