Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Tuesday, discussing his team’s 7-4 win over Anaheim on Monday, Jake Gardiner’s strong stretch of recent play, the decision to keep Travis Dermott on the roster and send Andreas Borgman to the Marlies, and more.
In a game like last night’s with a lot of goals scored, you look at the defensive position. How has that defensive position evolved for you over the years? Is it about the stick now and body positioning?
Babcock: I mean, obviously, being an elite skater is real important. Elite hockey sense really helps. A great stick and understanding of the game so that you can sort things out. The really good players, when they see it happening, can help other people see it happen. We weren’t very good last night off the rush. We didn’t sort things out as good. The team we have coming in tomorrow is really good in that area and they have good D coming, too, so we tried to focus on that as much as we could today to be prepared for tomorrow.
It’s good for our guys to score goals and feel good. On the other side of that, we’ve got to be better defensively. Everyone understands that.
Good to see Frederik Andersen back out there doing everything he normally does?
Babcock: Yeah, I talked to him last night, so I wasn’t very concerned. Obviously, a good opportunity for Mac to play. This way he didn’t have to play as many games.
Do you expect Andersen to be available tomorrow?
Babcock: Yeah, but I haven’t talked to Steve [Briere] yet and I haven’t talked to the medical people. We’ll make that decision tomorrow.
Jake Gardiner was just saying that he appreciates that you’ve given him a bit of a leash to go for some of those plays, knowing that sometimes they aren’t going to work. Earlier in his career, he would’ve sat down for a few shifts if they went awry. What made you kind of give him the opportunity?
Babcock: Well, I didn’t. I didn’t see it like that at all. I didn’t give him permission to do anything stupid, but he didn’t. We had a good F3, and he just pressured at the right time and read the situation. I think there is a big difference between just being high-risk and crazy and knowing where the people are. I thought we were in good spots defensively, and if we play right offensively, we’re always in good spots defensively. I thought Jake took advantage of that.
He’s one of those guys with elite hockey sense. He sees what is happening before it happens. He made a lot of good plays defensively that led to good plays offensively.
13 assists in nine games for him. Is it just a matter of the puck going in for him more, or have you seen him elevate at all?
Babcock: That’s a good question. Maybe when Rielly went out he just stepped up a little bit, but I don’t know the answer to that totally. Obviously, he feels good about himself and is on a roll. His power play hasn’t scored at the same rate as the other power play this year, so that affects your stats, too. But he’s feeling good about himself right now and that’s good for our team. He’s an important player.
When you look at Nashville as a city and the joy the sport has brought them, you had that in Anaheim, too, to a degree. Is that a blast to be a part of? That new culture?
Babcock: I mean, I don’t know how new it is in Nashville. Number one, they’ve got country music, too, so if you love country music like I do, it’s a pretty good spot to hang out.
But they’ve built a real good program there. They’ve been good for a long period of time. They’ve found a way to go a long way last year and they’re looking to do it again. They look like an elite, elite team with depth in all positions. I think, in all of the non-traditional hockey markets, it’s real important to have a good product. If you don’t have a good product, you can fill your rink in Toronto but you can’t in most other places. They’ve done an excellent job. David Poile and the people there have done an excellent job of building a real program.
You had a rotation going on the bottom defense pair. How did Dermott hold onto a spot here with Borgman going down yesterday?
Babcock: What we did is we just went through our process and just decided that we’ve got three weeks until the deadline and we can let Borgy get lots of ice time here and not be in a rotation. Borgy is part of the plan here. There is no question about it, so we made that decision. Dermott — we didn’t think he was ready at the start of the year, and we didn’t want him sitting out. He played lots of minutes. He killed penalties. He looks like a pretty good player now, so we’re going to try to do the same with Borgy for a couple of weeks here and then we’ll see what happens with our roster in the meantime.