Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Tuesday, addressing the team’s fourth line, Ron Hainsey’s role this season and into the playoffs, game planning for the Bruins, and more.
Near the end of the season, your fourth line was managing 11 or 12 minutes a game. How important was that time management and what their impact was able to do, if you’re going to get into a possibly long series?
Babcock: I think the biggest thing is, the better they play, the better we play, and the more they get to play. When you’re chasing the game, those guys don’t get to play as much. If you go through the minutes all year long, the games we lose, the big guys play more minutes. The reason they play more minutes is because you’re behind and you’re chasing it and it doesn’t go as good. If we can spread out the workload and everybody can be important, I think that’s a positive thing.
How much confidence do you think Mitch Marner will draw going into this year playoffs based on how he finished the regular season?
Babcock: I think, obviously, he’s playing good. Last year, he was hurt going in. He didn’t recover in the same way, and it was his first playoff series. I think this is a real good opportunity for him. He’s playing with good players and I think Patty helps him a lot. We need him to be important for us. But you’re going to have to compete. It’s not the skill time of year. It’s the will time of year. You’ve got to dig in.
How much did Ron Hainsey’s performance last year in Pittsburgh in the playoffs lead you guys to believe he would be a good addition for you?
Babcock: That was part of it. He also played in Carolina there and I know the coach pretty good and we follow them pretty closely. Their penalty kill was unbelievable and he was a huge part of it. It just worked out. You have lots of plans going into the offseason every year about who you are going to acquire and what you’re going to do, and it never works out. Every once in a while, you get lucky.
How do you measure the impact Hainsey has had on Rielly when you look at the season Rielly has had as a whole?
Babcock: Guys that have been around the league learn how to play. He’s just like the human eraser. All of the mistakes guys make, he just stands there and just puts his stick on it. Chara does the same thing for Boston. They know where to stand and how to play. They’ve made their mistakes. It took Hainsey a long time to get into the league as a player, so he earned his stripes. He was an offensive guy and learned how to play without it. He’s an important guy for us. Not just on the penalty kill, but just in general and as far as leadership.
Rielly made a big jump in the Washington series and then it kind of carried through this year. How much has he grown from the beginning of that series to now?
Babcock: I thought he really had it going this year and then he got hurt and it took him a while to get his game back. We need him to dig in here again. We talked here the other day — to win, your best players have got to be your best players. You’ve got to dig in and you’ve got to compete and you’ve got to be real solid defensively. He has the capability of doing all of those things. Now you’ve got to bring it out of yourself.
Do you expect Boston to put Bergeron on Matthews?
Babcock: I’ve got lots of theories of what I expect. I’m just going to keep them to myself and the team and coaches. How’s that?
With the experience you have with Komarov and Plekanec on the fourth line, do you have to be less concerned with line matchups?
Babcock: For sure. It’s a good miss for you for sure. Kappy can really skate, or Johnny — whoever is going to go. That gives us a good mix there. Obviously, they have real good depth. They’re getting some guys back, I see, just from their lineup here today. They’re going to be no different that way than us.
Hainsey was saying that when he studies the Bergeron line, the biggest thing that stands out to him is their unpredictability and that it is difficult to predict what they’re going to do. Is that a fair assessment?
Babcock: Yeah, I think that. The other thing is they work. If you compete and you’re competitive, and you’re on the puck and willing to check it back, then it’s just not about your skill set. Pastrnak is a real good young player, too, and he learns a lot from them. The other two are world-class players and they’re competitive.
How much does a playoff series come down to having a better goalie?
Babcock: I don’t know the answer to that. It’s always nice to have the better goalie, though.
You relied so heavily on Morgan and Jake in the playoffs last year and they really delivered in some heavy, heavy minutes — heavier than the regular season. Do you see that happening again with them?
Babcock: What happened was that Zaitsev and Polak got hurt, right? That’s a big part of it. Ideally, everyone is going to just continue doing what they’re doing and be important. I think we’re deeper on the backend. I think we’re a lot deeper on the backend. Everyone can play and have a role and be important. Ideally, we can roll them out the door.
When you’re up against a coach who doesn’t have a track record in Bruce Cassidy, is it harder to play when you don’t know what the other guys is going to do?
Babcock: I mean, we’ve had 82 games to get a good look. He’s been in the league before. He coached in the minors when I coached in the minors. I’ve got a pretty good handle on that. But it’s like anything — when you work at it and you study hard, you get to know pretty much everything about what they do. It’s like anything. Playoffs are different. Each round is a little bit different. I think, when you don’t have as much experience, you think experience is overrated. When you have lots, you know it’s important.
Do you have a plan in mind to rotate Johnsson in?
Babcock: No. This is what I have: A lineup to start Game 1. I just assume everything is going to go good and we’re going to win all of our games and we’re going to make no changes.
In talking to Jim Rutherford the other day, he thought your team looked a lot like his team did a couple years ago. Do you see the comparison?
Babcock: Well, I hope he’s right.
Quotes from the Bruins Dressing Room
Head coach Bruce Cassidy on whether or not rookie Ryan Donato is going to be removed from the lineup with Rick Nash returning:
Without going through every scenario, say Rick Nash is back in the lineup. Rick Nash is a power play guy in front. He did very well for us. He did very well in New York. He did very well in Columbus. We’re not worried about the drop off there. He’s going up with Krejci. We like Debrusk back there. Ryan was on that line on his off side. That is where Ryan could lose his spot. And then it becomes, “If we we drop him down the lineup, we like our fourth line.” Now it’s a question of is it him, Backes and Heinen, or is it Acciari, does Wingels go in? That’s the other phase of it.
The last part of it is, how many young players can go into the lineup at once and we sustain our level of play? Because it’s the second season. We factor all of those in.
Now, Game 1 doesn’t mean Game 2. It can change in a hurry. We’ve talked to a couple of guys about that. “You may or may not be in. Don’t be disappointed. Be ready to go in because the lineup isn’t set from one game to the next.”
Per Bruce Cassidy, it was a maintenance day for Noel Acciari. Expects him to be fine for Thursday.
Riley Nash did not skate today.
Rick Nash and Sean Kuraly were full participants, “bodes well for them.”
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) April 10, 2018
Patrice Bergeron on the Leafs:
They’re a tough matchup. They are a good team. They play with a lot of pace and a lot speed and they’re tight defensively. They’ve been good games, all the games we’ve played against them. We expect the same thing — a tough series.