Mike Babcock addressed the media after his team’s 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night, improving the Leafs’ record to 19-8-0 on the season.
On getting William Nylander back and the team’s performance in the win:
Obviously, it was good news for our hockey club here today. Kyle and Prids and the guys did a good job of getting that done. I know I wouldn’t have the patience for that kind of thing myself, so it was good they were able to do it. Willy was ecstatic after, obviously. He wants to be back here and we want him back here. It will take us 4 or 5 days to get him in the lineup, but as soon as we can, we will get him in.
As far as tonight, I think we started okay and then I don’t know if we thought it was going to be easy, or whatever. They’re a big, heavy team that plays real strong in the neutral zone and we turned the puck over and they made it a hockey game. We were resilient and found a way to win.
On Zach Hyman’s effort on the empty net goal to clinch the two points:
He’s a competitive guy, right? I thought the breakout play from Gards to Mitchy and the play there where he shoots it backside — that was a great play by him there. That play is another big play for us. Good for him and good for our team.
We are going to end up a team with lots of depth. We are going to end up becoming a real good hockey club. I didn’t think we had our ‘A’ game at all in the second half of the game, and yet we found a way to win. That’s a sign of a good team.
On his comments before the game that the Leafs need to experience playing heavy teams like Minnesota and how the team fared in that respect:
The way we scored — yes. The big goal at the end to give it a two-goal stretch was like that; the go-ahead goal and the goal by Hyman were like that. We should play them 20 times going into the playoffs. Now, we’ve got to make the playoffs. We need to understand how heavy and how hard it is. We’re fun to watch. There is no question about it. But just because you’re fun to watch doesn’t mean you get to play a long time in the Spring.
On the team getting heavily outshot in the game:
We track scoring chances like crazy. We talk about that. When there is too many scoring chances, that’s on us. Tonight, there were too many scoring chances.
Auston Matthews on finding his form coming back from injury:
Still not feeling completely like myself but it’s just two games in. As I continue to play I’ll get my legs back under me and my wind back, I just hope to continue to play better and better.
Tonight, that is a team that is very good in the neutral zone. They don’t give you much. They kind of bore you a bit. You can get too fancy. We turned the puck over too much and they were coming back our way. That’s their system. We’ve got to do better things.
Matthews on settling down the Marner pass on his goal:
It wasn’t too far off the ice, but still, he kind of gave me a bomb there. But he threaded the needle and I was able to just knock it down and get it off my stick as quickly as possible. I was able to capitalize, so I think the power play has been playing a big part for us the past couple of games. We want to continue that.
Matthews on the Nylander news:
It’s great news. We’re hoping to get him here as soon as possible. He’s a big part this team. It’s the same thing as me coming back from injury. You need a couple games to kind of get going, but I’m sure he has been skating quite a bit and he is excited to get back with his teammates and start playing hockey games.
Matthews on whether he’s happy the constant questions about Nylander are over with:
You guys got one day and then you’ve got to find something else to talk about. Lucky for you, this has been going on for months and the ball just keeps rolling. It’s nice to put it to the rest. A couple more articles probably tomorrow. Monday, you finish it off, and it’s on to the next story.
Matthews on the team’s ability to churn out results with key pieces missing:
A lot of depth. A lot of guys stepping up in big moments. I think that is the big key to our team and something we have going for us that not a lot of teams do — a lot of depth when guys go down. Other guys step up and we’ve got tons of skill to go with it.
Mitch Marner on whether it will take Nylander some time to get up to speed:
That guy is a freak. He does some stuff on the ice… He works hard on it. I am sure he has been keeping up on all of that kind of stuff in Sweden. It’s nice to have him back for sure.
I am very happy. Having him back is just going to add more fire to this team and make us deeper. It’s exciting and I can’t wait to have him back.
Marner on how the players found out the news about Nylander:
A couple of guys came in early. We were kind of all sitting in here. Babs kind of popped out of the office and said we signed him. Of course, everyone nowadays just goes right to a phone. There were about 20 of us who walked over and grabbed our phones. Next thing you know, you see the signing. Like I said, we are all really excited. Everyone texted him here. We can’t wait for him to get back to Toronto.
Marner on Matthews’ comment that he sent him a “bomb” for the goal:
It was pretty impressive how he knocked it down. I’ll be talking to him about how he said that, but I agree with him. It wasn’t a pretty pass. But we knew beforehand that they have a tight penalty kill in-zone. I saw him for a quick second and kind of saw a stick come through, so I knew I had to kind of throw a harder sauce. It didn’t get down the way I wanted it to, but he knocked it down and he’s got a great release. It doesn’t really surprise anyone.
Tyler Ennis on stealing a win:
We were prepared for them to clog up the neutral ice and not give us much. We were prepared to be patient, but really, I think Freddy played great. He stood on his head and got us the win.