Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Monday, discussing the Round 1 matchup against the Boston Bruins, the challenge Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand create, the importance of the leadership of Patrick Marleau and Ron Hainsey at this time of year, and much more.
On the Bruins top line:
Babcock: To me, Bergy is as good of a… I just think he’s a great player with and without the puck. Each of them has 30 goals and yet they play without it, too. To me, that is a huge factor in any series. Their good players are good.
How much do you think you’ve played as far as a role in the development of Bergeron and Marchand — players you put in real significant places that, at the time, they weren’t necessarily thought of that way.
Babcock: I don’t think I did. I think opportunity helps you get better and earn confidence. What I mean by that is: When you get to play for the Olympic team and you get to be around the best players and you decide you’re a pretty good player — or you get to play on the World Cup team and you’re around the best players and decide you’re a good player — I think that’s huge for confidence.
The other thing you do is, “rob and do.” You go in there and see who does what better than you, and you take some of those things and you learn. I think the opportunities you gain in those events help you make yourself a way better player, but it only happens if you have the drive train and the initiative to get after it and continue to get better.
How much different is it for Auston, Mitch, Willy and those guys going in this year, knowing a little more what to expect than last year?
Babcock: I think it [helps], but in saying all of that, you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to do it. The other thing about it: If you want to be considered a good player, you’ve got to do it at this time of year. If you want to be a winner, that’s what the good players are: Winners. They find a way to win. You’ve got to do it when it matters. It matters now. To me, that’s how you separate yourself from the group.
If you want to be… You look at Crosby’s resume and Jonathan Toews’ resume, it is loaded with winning. When you become a serial winner, you get a ton of respect. But that’s at playoff time.
Last year, your team was considered an underdog against Washington. Is it fair to call the team an underdog this year against Boston?
Babcock: I think they’ve got more points than us, so we’re the underdog. In saying all of that, they believe they’re going to win and we believe we’re going to win. That doesn’t mean we think it’s going to be easy. We don’t think that at all. But we think we’ve got enough in the room that we’re going to find a way.
The other thing I’d say to you: The Spring is real short for most teams. We don’t want it to be short. We’re having fun. If we want to keep playing and hanging out together, we’ve got to dig in.
From where you sit, in these big games, how big is the psychological strength of a goaltender?
Babcock: I think that’s huge. How do you build yourself into someone that you know, not hope? Once you know, it happens more and more often because you just believe. When things go bad, you shake it off.
When you don’t know and things go bad, you start to question. That is the biggest thing. Winning leads to winning. When you’ve done it, you believe you can do it again. That’s the challenge for all of us in this room.
When it comes to great playoff players and other teams game planning against them, and how they can step up — Bossy and Trottier, now Sid doing what he does, Toews and Kane — what makes those guys able to get past that kind of game planning?
Babcock: It’s called will. It’s called determination. They’re not going away. They’re just going to stick with it. They know most shifts in the game are 50-50; in other words, nothing happens. But there is going to be one shift where they get their opportunity and they’re going to make you pay. They do that with determination, drive train, stick-to-itiveness. They’re just waiting to wear you out.
The other thing about it is: The best of the best, they’ve worked harder and trained harder. They’re in better shape and they’re mentally stronger. They’re going to make fewer mistakes, and in the end, they get you.
Can you speak just a little bit about the playoff experience you added in Hainsey and Marleau this year?
Babcock: Obviously, Hains has won the Cup. Hains is a real good partner for Morgan Rielly but he’s a real good leader on our backend. He’s a guy who is a calming influence back there. He can help out in many ways that a coach can’t. I’d say the same with Patrick Marleau. He’s just been around.
You know, Patty — just like [Marchand and Bergeron] — have been on those Olympic teams. He has been in that winning atmosphere. He saw what guys have to do to win and be successful. And yet he doesn’t have his Cup yet and he wants one.
Concerning Marleau, as far as what people don’t see and what he has done — in terms of bringing the young guys to his home, and stuff like that — how important is that stuff… the stuff people don’t see?
Babcock: I was sitting with somebody last night watching the game. They were asking me that exactly. I just said, “To me, when they see it modelled every day, they know there is no room for slippage.” When you see a great player with a great career doing it right all the time, you know you can’t cheat. You feel guilty when you do. When you’re around those kinds of players, there is no room for slippage. We don’t want slippage. We want our guys doing it right. Guys like Patty set the standard.