Mike Babcock addressed the media after his team’s 4-3 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night, extending the Leafs’ winning streak to five and improving their record to 20-8-0 on the season.
On the team’s performance:
I just thought we found a way. At the start of the game, they were quicker than us, for whatever reason. I thought we got it dialed in. I thought we really took over the start of the second period — the last seven minutes of the first and the start of the second period. We had the game in a good spot.
We turned the puck over for one and lost some faceoffs on another two. All in all, we found a way to win. Obviously, good players do good things. Kappy had a real good chance in overtime as well and the goalie made a real good save. Matty was able to finish.
On Auston Matthews’ comment that he still doesn’t feel fully himself yet coming back from injury:
If you know him, and I don’t want to take anything away… He got two goals tonight. But, obviously, his skating and his conditioning — there is nothing you can do until you play. The more he plays and the more he gets through it, the better he is going to be. The ability to just keep pushing when you are in a battle — it’s tough — and the ability to keep your legs going.
Any time you have been off, it is going to take you some time. He knows that. He is a good enough player that he is obviously helping us in the meantime.
On Matthews looking out of gas before he won the game in OT:
I agree with you, but I think if you talked to him and just asked him specifically, there are probably a number of times where he feels out of gas. It is what it is. In overtime, he can’t get off anyway, and by the time he had a chance to get off, there were about ten seconds left or whatever it was. He shot it in the net instead.
On whether Matthews has the best shot of any player he’s ever coached:
He’s got a good release, obviously. I’ve have to go through the game… It’s been a while since I coached anybody who can shoot the puck like that, but he can shoot the puck.
On whether it means anything to him that the Leafs just tied an 80-year-old franchise record for fastest to 20 wins:
It means a lot to me. One day I am going to retire and one day someone is going to show me a sheet with all of this stuff on it… No. We’re out the gate. It looks like Tampa wins every night to me. We’re in a real battle here with Buffalo. You are in a battle to get better and you are in a battle with the standings at the same time. The way the division is, it is going to be real tight all year. It is going to be a lot of fun.
On whether he takes a moment to enjoy the milestones at least:
No, I think it’s great. Obviously, we’ve got a good team. We’ve got good young players. We think we are going in the right direction. This is my fourth year in Toronto. It’s gotten better every year and we are excited about our opportunity. Now we’ve still got to get a lot better to get to do what we want to do. 20 games is great, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.
On the 2-1 Jake Gardiner goal:
Hyman went to the net and tied up Bogosian so he couldn’t play, and then the other two basically 2-on-1’d. At the end, Mitch has got that kind of ability. The good players seem to keep making plays over and over. There is no room for the rest of us, but for those few guys, they seem to be able to do it.
On whether there is a personal rivalry between Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews in these Leafs vs. Sabres games:
I think it is. Weren’t Matty and him teammates at one time? I think it is personal. I think that is what you want. You want best on best. I think in all sport, at the highest level, best on best is personal.
On his players’ comments that they don’t know how Matthews shoots the puck as he does:
Not many of them are 225 pounds or whatever he is. Obviously, he has got a gift. In saying that, what we try to do is steal something good off of all the really good players. Whatever that may be, you can always learn from what the good players do and you try to turn it and give it to your development team and see if we can’t all be something better.
On whether there is a benefit to players learning from other elite players:
That is what happens when you’ve got really good players. You learn from them. Willy is going to come back now and you are going to see some things he can do and some things Mitch can do. When we were sending out clips this summer, we were sending out clips of the way Rielly can turn and the way he puts his stick down and the way Mitch can do things to other kids because we want them to follow that lead.
On whether he expects William Nylander in practice tomorrow:
Willy, yeah. He will practice. I hope he is playing. Enough is enough. Let’s get at her here, man.