Mike Babcock addressed the media after his team’s 5-4 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings, the Leafs’ 25th win of the season through 37 games.
On Kasperi Kapanen “forcing his way into the top six”:
Top six, top nine… I don’t really know on our team, to be honest with you. Over time, we’ll figure it out. I don’t know if there is much difference between them. But he’s been good for us, for sure. I mean, we weren’t very good at the start, obviously. We started good for about four shifts, and then didn’t think it was going to be hard enough and didn’t play hard enough. But we have skill and we got determined and got it done.
On the mixing feelings of his team putting itself behind the eight-ball but showing the ability to come back:
I liked our resiliency when we needed it. I wish we didn’t have to use it. But it’s 82 games. When you look at it at the end, the teams that win lots, they win 3-2. They come back. They find ways to win. That’s what good teams do. It’s not perfect every night. You’d like it to be, but it’s not.
[The Red Wings] worked really hard. I knew they were going to work really hard. We didn’t work as hard in the first… I don’t know how long you’d say. In the end, though, we found a way to win. It’s a good feeling going into Christmas. The guys have done a good job. We’ve set ourselves up through game #37. Now we’ve got to freshen up and get ready to go again.
On Trevor Moore’s NHL debut and first career point:
I mean, I hardly played him. I thought he had good speed. They made the good play to give us energy. Mooresy made a good play and Par made a good play, and Goat made a good shot. That gave us energy and got us going. We were dead until that point. That was real positive.
On whether there is anything else he could ask of John Tavares through 30-odd games:
I never thought about that, but what I like about him is he is a pro. What I like about him is he’s calm. What I like about him is that he doesn’t… None of this matters. He’s just going to come and do his job. It doesn’t matter. He’s a man. I think it’s given Patty Marleau and Hainsey and those guys another ally and good leadership.
On Justin Holl’s performance in his first game in a long while:
We weren’t very good early, so we spent a lot of time in our zone. He was in the group that was helping that happen. As we got going and he settled in, he got better.
On William Nylander starting on the left wing with Auston Matthews and Kasperi Kapanen, and his overall performance:
I thought he was engaged on the opening faceoff. I thought he won a battle to set up and ended up leading to the goal. I thought he skated better than he skated the whole time, wherever I played him.
On the fourth line scoring after he said “every line is a scoring line” earlier in the day:
That’s what we talked about earlier today. I was actually laughing. I almost said that going for the period to the guys, but I thought they wouldn’t know what I was talking about anyway, so… But I think we’ve got good players and I think all players can score.
On the goal support that allows Garret Sparks to collect wins despite giving up quite a few goals per game:
That helps him for sure. In the end, your job as a goalie is to out-goaltend him, too. You’ve just got to keep getting better and you’ve got to find your confidence. The biggest thing that happens when you’re overplaying things and you’re young and you’re first starting is that you start swimming a little bit instead of just being poised and calm. He will get more poised as he goes.
On the Marlies‘ ability to produce NHL players and whether it is on par with what Grand Rapids was for Detroit in his time with the Wings:
I mean, what would I say to you… You can be really good in the American league and never play here, right? There are some guys who are going to find their niche and find their way. We have a bunch of kids down there that we monitor very closely. We are fortunate that we can go to the games or watch them on TV. We get to see a lot of them. It’s going to be hard to make our team. We’ll add other guys as well. It’s going to be a tough roster to make, but we encourage the competition.