Mike Babcock addressed the media after his team’s 4-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Leafs’ fifth win in a row and league-leading 14th victory on the road.
On the team’s performance coming off the break:
I just thought we started good here tonight — probably better than I expected, to tell you the truth. It was nice to score early. Obviously, any time you can score, it puts you in a good situation. They answered back with one, but we kept playing pretty good. We got all four lines on the board there. Goat has done a good job; on a three-game scoring streak. That’s positive for the group. And we had good specialty teams.
On the decision to start Garret Sparks in the first game back from the break:
We just felt that after a break, it’s important for Freddy to get some practice in. Freddy is our guy and we’ve got to make sure he is healthy. We’ll probably do it after the next break as well. That’s what we had.
On Frederik Gauthier starting to get rewarded on the scoresheet:
Goat, everywhere he’s ever gone, all he’s done is win. He’s just a big guy who plays good defense and stays above the puck. Obviously, he’s working on his game. The more plays he can make offensively, the more he’s going to find himself staying in the NHL. He’s done a real nice job for us. He’s a good guy. The guys like him. He plays hard.
On John Tavares’ ability to convert with tips in tight to the net:
He’s got a stick like a crowbar. He’s heavy, heavy on it. He’s got elite hockey sense and can do it. Who knows? Today, Mitch made a real good play on the power play to go off Naz on the high tip Naz and then it went off John. And then the rocket of the second shot. He finds his way to the net. He knows where goals are scored.
On whether it is a priority to get Frederik Andersen more rest in the second half of the season:
I say this every time you guys ask me this. I say the same thing. Hope is great, but I don’t know how it is going to go. I am going to do whatever I have to do to get ourselves into the playoffs.
On Sparks’ performance:
I thought Sparks made some saves tonight. Lots of games that we’ve played, we scored lots of goals for him and it hasn’t been as… We found a way to win, but it hasn’t been… Tonight, he had to make some big saves, especially in the second period there. That’s positive for him. It gives you confidence and allows you to build on it.
On the game vs. the Islanders tomorrow night and the potential for it to be emotionally charged with Tavares’ first game against NYI and the return of Leo Komarov and Matt Martin as members of the Islanders:
I don’t know how emotional it will be for all of them, but for some of them, for sure. They’ve got guys on that team… I mean, Leo was a huge part of this team for a long time. Matt Martin did a real good job here looking after our guys. He was a real good teammate. When you go through it like that… John Tavares, for a lot of years, was the captain of that team and is proud of the time he put in there. The guys will want to play hard for John.