Mike Babcock addressed the media after his team’s 5-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings to move to 4-1-0 on the season.
On how the game played out over the 60 minutes:
I thought, through two periods, our team played really well. We didn’t give up much. We had the puck lots. We played real well. I didn’t like our third as much. We didn’t take care of the puck as good and didn’t keep our foot on the gas quite as good. But it’s a big win for us here tonight any way you look at it.
We got a couple of bonus points here tonight. We need six in our segment to make the playoffs, so we got a couple extra here tonight, which is good. I think it’s great for the guys that are doing all the scoring right now. It makes you feel good.
In the end, though, it is about winning each and every night. It doesn’t really matter on our team who does the scoring as long as we score enough and we find a way to win. I think the guys have been real good about that. Whether it’s John or Matty or Mitch, they know what they’re here for. It’s an exciting time for our team, but we’ve got to get a lot better, as you know.
On Morgan Rielly’s record-setting start to the season with 12 points in five games:
It’s a hard league for a d-man. We’ve got good offensive players up front and Morgan can pass and really skate. I think Jake is a lot the same. We’re not as deep — we’ve kind of got one power play unit right now instead of two. When Willy decides to come back, we’ll have two and that’ll make a difference.
Obviously, the more scoring you have from the back, the better off you are. I think Dermy and Ozhiganov and guys like that will round into guys who can really move the puck, too, over time. But it just takes time in the league.
Mo has got confidence. No one gives it to you. You’ve got to earn it. I think he earned a lot last year and he’s really come on this year. He feels like every night he goes out there, he can do something.
On Auston Matthews’ otherworldly start with nine goals an 12 points in five games:
He had a fast start last year, too, and then it was unfortunate he got injured. He’s a big man. He has really worked hard on his body, his skating, and all parts of his game. When you look at our crew, that is what most guys have done. They’ve really improved. When you like it, you’re willing to work at it and you have a chance to keep getting better.
No different than Riels. You earn confidence from being in the league and being around and understanding what it takes. Just with and without the puck, he’s been better.
On the decision to give the team off on Friday:
Fatigue had nothing to do with it. I decided before the game to use it as a little bit of bait. It might be a nice day to walk around in Washington tomorrow. They didn’t want to listen to me run practice, so it worked out perfect. How’s that?
On the team’s final 20 minutes:
I thought we played real well through 40 minutes and they came out… I don’t want to say we put our foot on the break, but we were careful instead of going right after them. You have to learn to win. Everybody wants us to be a finished product four or five games in, but that’s just not the real world. We’re just going to keep getting better each and every day and give ourselves a chance.
On the reason why Auston Matthews plays his strong (non-one time) side on the power play:
It’s just the way teams penalty kill now. Ovechkin can do it. But a lot of teams, it is harder to protect the puck on that side in a one-time position. They trap down so hard on you from the top. We’ve got good players, obviously, and he can shoot it in that spot. But because you have a number of other people they have to worry about… It’d be way easier if you didn’t, you just had one guy. But because there are multiple people, you’ve got to pick kind of what they do. That’s what makes it hard.
On whether there is something special coming together with this team:
I think we just started over a period of time here. Obviously, we’ve gone through a number of players over a four-year process to get here. But we tried to build a team around really, really good people and we’ve tried to make it safe for them so that it’s like family. That’s the idea. You build a culture by making it safe for people so that there is an accountability, just like your family. In the end, you have a chance to win if you can do that. We think we’ve taken steps, but I mean, we’re five games in.