Mike Babcock addressed the media on Sunday, discussing forcing a sixth game, the penalty trouble in Game 5, the pressure on the team at this time of year, the decision to play Andreas Johnsson over Leo Komarov, the officiating in the series, the challenge ahead in Game 6, and much more.
Getting the series back here in Toronto, how important was that given you had to work for that opportunity last night?
Babcock: Obviously, we think it’s real important. We enjoy the atmosphere here and we enjoy the opportunity to continue to play. We think we’ve had a real good year. If you get in the playoffs and it doesn’t go as good for you, you can be out fast, unless you show some resiliency and dig in. I’m proud of our group. Now we’ve got to get playing at the level we’re capable of playing at, and for the full 60 minutes, and obviously stay out of the penalty box.
What are the ways to avoid that happening?
Babcock: Stay out of the penalty box. We were in there, if I’m not mistaken, six times. The game was going perfect, and then there was a parade to the box. Stay out of the penalty box.
What does it do for the rest of the guys?
Babcock: You sit there and freeze to death. I don’t know if you’ve ever been out in a snowstorm or been out skidoo’ing, and your skidoo runs out of gas, and you’ve got to sit there and wait for someone to bring you gas. But you’re not allowed to walk around, because you stay warm you do that. You’re not involved in the game. What you’ve done is you’ve taken your team out of it. Now you’ve got no rhythm and now you get on your heels. We’ve got to do a better job of staying out of the box.
Do you have any quarrel with the way the series has been officiated?
Babcock: That’s a real nice question. You should ask me in the summer.
This is a 24/7 existence that you live in with hockey here. How do you stay young and in the moment with the job?
Babcock: Don’t get me wrong – I think you work hard, as hard as you possibly can. I love doing it. I love the kids. I love being around it. I’ve got a whole other life. I don’t know… I’m going to leave here in a few minutes here and I’m going to enjoy the rest of the day and my wife, and whatever else I’ve got going on in life and come back here tomorrow.
What are the things about your lineup you liked last night? Do you foresee changes with your lines?
Babcock: I’m not sure. We’re going to have the same people. I’m not sure we’re going to have the same lineup. I haven’t decided for sure just because last change at home might make that different. I don’t know for sure. How’s that?
Is it tough to leave Leo out of your lineup given what he’s meant to the team?
Babcock: For sure. I think what was said to you and what was told to me was a little bit different. When I talked to our guys yesterday, he was at 85%. 85% doesn’t cut it at playoff time. So when you’re ready to play, you’ve got a chance to get in. In my opinion, I have not been told at all that he’s available. That’s how it is. How’s that?
You reached a point where the skidoo ran out of case and you started going to the penalty box. Was the game going according to the blue print you wanted it to?
Babcock: We thought we executed real well at the start. We played with good speed. We scored early. You like to start on time. If you can get going and playing good, it’s way easier to play with the lead. I thought the game went perfect for us. We only got one power play; 20 seconds later, it’s in the net. We didn’t have all that time on the power play. In saying all of that, our penalty kill was huge. We wouldn’t be here without the penalty kill. They killed the 5-on-3 for – I don’t know how long it was. The guys did a real good job with that.
The one that hit off the stanchion there, hit the back and came back out – we’d like to have a clear there, but we didn’t. Freddy was good for us. All of that is over with now, though. We’ve got a new opportunity tomorrow. They’ve got a new opportunity tomorrow. They want to end the series. We want to go back to Boston. We like clam chowder.
At any point, coach, do you tell the guys to enjoy the moment – the fans, the craziness?
Babcock: All the time. I’ve said this a number of times. I don’t know about you people, but we’re all here because of these crazy fans. Otherwise, you wouldn’t get paid. The better job you do, the more fans you’re going to have. That square last night, or whatever they call it, that looks like fun. I’d like to go there myself. Go down there, have a few beers, and enjoy the people. It looks unbelievable. They’re so fired up about their Leafs. They’re proud of their Leafs. But they don’t know if they’re quite good enough yet. They don’t. We’ve got to prove we are. That’s what we’re here for.
How much do you put into your conversations with the series supervisor in terms of feeling like you’re having an impact on what’s happening in the game?
Babcock: Yeah, I think that’s a really good question. I don’t think you should ask me until the summer.
How can you exploit fear so that it works to your benefit rather than paralyzing you?
Babcock: What do you mean fear? What does that mean?
Of what might happen next. Last night, for example, as things looked like things were falling apart…
Babcock: I don’t think, when you’re on the bench playing the game, that you think like that. I think you think next play I’ll do my part and keep playing. At no time during the game last night, and you don’t have to believe this if you don’t want to, did I feel like we were going to lose. I just thought we were going to win. Why did I feel that? I don’t know. Some nights, when you’re playing the game and you’re playing so poorly, it’s just, “We’re never going to win.” Last night wasn’t one of those nights.
I believe these are opportunities, and I believe that what you want to become known as a player is a guy who gets it done at this time of year. To me, that’s a measure of a career. You want to be, whether you’re a coach or a player, known as… if you get a chance to coach that team, you’re going to deliver. I think the same for the players. You want to be big-moment players? So you’ve got to be in the big moment and you’ve got to relax and execute and do what you do. But I think you’ve got to believe you can do that, and I think our group does.
Along those lines, you had the option for radical changes last night if you wanted, but your faith was rewarded, obviously, by the players that you had in the lineup.
Babcock: I didn’t think we did at all, to tell you the truth. There was none of them considered. I went to Leo when Leo and the trainers indicated where he was, and the coaches before, then there was no consideration whatsoever.
Given the penalty trouble, what gave you the faith that the 37-year-old defenseman would be able to log that kind of ice time down the stretch and into the playoffs?
Babcock: Who did you want on instead?
The 41-year-old wasn’t bad. The 38-year-old has been one of our best players up front – wasn’t bad. Age has nothing to do with it. Are you physically fit enough? I’d ask you again: Who do you want out there instead? To me, he’s that good, so he’s going out there. We gave him the day off today.
Do guys have to learn where the line is game-to-game at playoff time? The Bruins seem to be pretty good at it.
Babcock: Yep. I mean, if you’re them, you’re happy because we went to the box six times and they didn’t. If you’re me, you’ve just got to make sure you stay out of the box tomorrow. That’s what you do.
There were four times last night where Johnsson had the puck in a shooting situation and he deferred and passed. Is he doing that out of politeness, or?
Babcock: He must’ve thought he was making the right play. I thought Naz had a huge impact. He ran over people. He was mean. He made good plays. He sent Willy in home free. He sent Johnny in home free. He had another 2-on-1 where chose to shoot. I thought Naz was real good game.
Andreas, though – he had the puck in the slot…
Babcock: Oh, I thought you said Naz! I asked him today, “Why wouldn’t you shoot the puck?” I asked him that already. I don’t know if you remember – it was a couple days ago or a few games ago – and he had a 2-on-1 with Matthews and he made a heck of a shot. I loved it because he didn’t pass to Matty. Last night, Matty was driving through and he tried to slide it to him. On another one, he looked back to Willy. I don’t know the answer to that, but I just know, with more confidence, he’s been a goal scorer for a long time. He can shoot the puck a ton. I think he’ll shoot.
With now detail-oriented you guys are, how much information do you give the players on who is officiating the game and how close they’ll call it?
Babcock: We post it every day. They see their names. They see the photograph of the guy. It’s all there for them. We talk about it. If a guy call a lot of stick penalties, we talk about. Just like you do a pre-scout on the players, so you know what is going on and you know the information. We don’t dwell on it, though. From night to night – the officials would tell you this, too – they don’t know how it’s going to go; they don’t know if there is going to be two penalties, one penalty. Two nights ago, in our building, I think there was one penalty? Two?
Is Brad Marchand getting away with stuff in this series that maybe your guys would get called for?
Babcock: To tell you the truth, I haven’t noticed that myself at all. I noticed he’s a good player. I didn’t notice that part. I just noticed we went to the box too much last night. That’s my evaluation, period.