Mike Babcock addressed the media after his team’s 3-2 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens in the first game of the 2018-19 season.
On getting an ugly win to start the season:
I thought Montreal played with great effort and great structure. I thought they worked real hard. I thought they were above the puck. I thought they were happy to put it in and get on top of us. I thought they worked real hard, to tell you the truth.
I thought we got good goaltending. I thought they got really good goaltending, as well; we had some grade As. In the end, we won the game. But we have to play way harder and way better than we did tonight.
You guys can write all you want and tell everybody how great we all are, but it’s the NHL. You’ve got to come to work every day. If you don’t work harder than the other team and you don’t put your work before your talent, you don’t win. If you turn the puck over, you don’t win.
There are probably lots of good messages. Every night, when the puck is dropped, you’re playing a really good team. It doesn’t matter how many points they have; I’m telling you, they’re a real good team. I think I mentioned that this morning when I had the lineup one above the other. I mentioned that same thing. But sometimes it doesn’t matter what I say. It is more about what they know after they get out there.
I thought tonight was a real good message, and we got two points at home.
On whether it was a lack of effort or execution at 5v5:
I just think that when the other team is on top of you, and when they’re hungry and they’re winning more 50-50 battles, part of it is execution, part of it is work, part of it is… If you don’t come back and stop, and you float by, it’s hard to execute.
Don’t get me wrong — I like winning. That’s why we came here tonight. Real nice play by our guys in overtime. Hemmed them in, we changed, we were fresh, and we came with speed. We scored a nice power play goal. Our penalty kill looked good. We made the mistake there for the goal.
I thought there were lots of good things. I thought Lindholm was really good. I thought Dermott played well. But we are way better than that, and expect more. That’s all.
On John Tavares getting his first as a Leaf in his first game:
It was a good goal. Leivo went to the net hard — just enough to distract Carey a little bit — and he was able to make the shot. I just think we are better and I want us to play better and play right, and we will.
On whether he’s confident that this group doesn’t need many messages to learn from this game:
I’m not confident in anything. Just like you guys, I’m learning them. I think you think there is a big carry over from year to year. There is not. I’ve been in the league a long time. You start all over again each and every year. This is a different kind of team with a different set of expectations.
You know, when you’re real scared, it is easy to work hard. When you are not as scared, it is not as easy to work hard. Hopefully that will put a little scare in us and we’ll get going.
On the team’s struggle to break out cleanly throughout the game:
I thought I said that already. They were on top of us all the time. Why not just get on top of them? Then it’ll be way smoother coming out of our own zone. If they establish their game first and they get on top of you first and they’re in a five-man unit and there is no space, there is no space. If you get on top of them, you create space and you start wearing them out and you’re out-changing them, then you look pretty smooth. Tonight we didn’t look that smooth.
Now, we did win right?