Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Friday and touched on how the team can get their home form turned around, ice time distribution for John Tavares and Auston Matthews, and more.
It’s only been five home and five away, but can you apply what’s been so successful on the road and play a good road game at home to get things turned around?
Babcock: We’d like to for sure. I don’t know in how many road games we’ve scored first… I don’t think it’s been many. We seem to be more patient. We don’t press. We don’t do silly things. We don’t get in a run-and-gun game at home. I don’t know if we are just trying to be too cute or look too good, but in the end, it’s about results and doing things right.
We look like we’re back skating again. Ideally, that will help us. It’s always hard to beat a real good team twice in a row. Teams will be no different than us. You’re trying to respond and get yourself back at the top of your game. We will have our hands full, but we are excited to play.
What is the status on Ron Hainsey and Travis Dermott?
Babcock: Ron was in the lineup for most of the game. We didn’t have him at the end. Ron is fine. Dermy is sick. I don’t know how many days he is taking, but he couldn’t practice today, so obviously, he’s going to be out for a while longer.
What do you like about the Auston Matthews and Patrick Marleau combination so far?
Babcock: I’ve liked lots about them in lots of games. A few games, they weren’t as good. We are challenging them to cycle the puck more and spend more time in the o-zone; less time rush, more time o-zone, just because your rush goes away as the year goes on.
I think those guys are working hard. I thought they had a real good game last game. They had a real heavy shift when Kappy scored his goal to get us going. I thought that was an important one in the game. And they were good defensively.
Nazem Kadri seemed pretty happy about getting that monkey off his back. Is it always going to be a little more fun coming to the rink when you’re happy to have that over with?
Babcock: I don’t know even know about happy. It’s just the idea that one went in and now you can stop raising your hands and cheering those cross bars. You can just know it was in.
It’s like anything. Everyone wants to get started, but you know what it’s like. It’s hard to score in the NHL. You get in your own way and get in your own head. I thought his line was real good last game. We need them to be effective and we need them to generate offense, too.
You talked about the challenge of getting Matthews, Tavares, and Kadri enough ice time. How much of a challenge has it been so far?
Babcock: If you base it on the way other people are managing their people, it would be different. The way I like to run our team is… I’ve said it before. I want Matty and Johnny to be between 18 and 20. I want them having 26 shifts a night. You can get way more minutes and play fewer shifts — just play longer shifts. I don’t want that. I want Naz in the 16-17 range. It doesn’t leave a lot for your fourth-line center. You’re going to have to get some penalty kill, and that.
But that’s how we’d like to play. We want to play as high tempo as we can. We believe and agree with our sports science guys that that is the best way to get it done.
You don’t need to comment on what Connor McDavid is doing, but this is what you guys are doing… Do you see it as an advantage in-game, or do you see it as later in the season and your guys can have fresher legs?
Babcock: I think the best thing for me to do is talk about my guys.
But do you see that as an advantage in terms of the end of the season, or?
Babcock: I think I answered your question once already. Anybody else?
With Mitch Marner, how much is fearlessness a big part of his game in order to be successful as a smaller guy cutting through the middle like he did on his assist versus Winnipeg?
Babcock: I think he is one of those guys that can stickhandle amongst the trees and find pucks in that area. I thought one of his best games was last game just because he was so good defensively, tracked so hard, and made so many good plays. He is an important player for us. He knows he is a good player.
What goes around, comes around in the league, but how much of an advantage is it that Winnipeg is playing tonight and you can watch them ahead of tomorrow?
Babcock: For sure you’d like to think that. The only thing I know is that all of us, when we are playing good teams, want to beat good teams. They will be ready in here Saturday and we have to be ready.