Mike Babcock addressed the media after his team’s 3-1 loss to the Florida Panthers, the Leafs’ sixth loss in their last nine games.
On the team’s performance in generating just 21 shots on goal:
I thought it was a tightly contested game. I thought they were better than us at the start. It took us a while to get our legs going. We got ourselves behind 2-1 and then I thought they did a real nice job. We didn’t execute at a high enough level to make it hard on Luongo at all tonight. Give them credit. They had good energy. They played real well. We were unable to follow up last night’s effort with more of the same.
On what Nylander and Matthews need to do to get scoring again:
I think the whole key is just work. You talk about scoring — they’ve had lots of different linemates and lots of different opportunity. You just go to work. You make simple plays and you play good without the puck when it’s not going in. You work hard, and next thing you know, you find one and you get some momentum for yourself. One thing about the league is that no one feels sorry for you, but we need those players to be good players. That is what is so tough about the league. It is not only a physical battle; it’s a mental battle. When things are going great, that is great. When they are not going good, you’ve got to dig in and go to work.
On whether giving Nylander fourth-line duty and having him work his way back up makes any sense in light of what Kapanen and Marner have done in the past:
I don’t know… Kappy started the year on the fourth line and I think Mitchy just played there in his first year when he was just learning to play a little bit. The bottom line is we don’t want Willy on the fourth line. We want Willy being a contributor for our hockey club. He is an honest kid and usually puts in a good effort. He will continue to work at it. He’s never been through anything like this — probably — before. It’s tough catching up, as you can see.
On whether mixing up the lines and moving Nylander down was a case of sending a message:
The line change came with trying to win the hockey game. I mean, I changed the lines in the first. I changed them in the second. You are just trying to get something going because we weren’t going.
On whether he is seeing a lack of urgency from this team:
I never… No, I don’t think that. I think there is always highs and lows. I don’t see that at all. I think we’ve been a pretty good team. We’ve just got to keep getting better. The thing about the NHL is it is very, very tight. If you don’t have your A game and they jump on you, you’re not going to win. It’s just that simple. Now with Barkov and Trocheck back, they’ve got a good team here. We knew it was going to be hard going in. We’d have liked to have been better.
On whether this is now getting to be a prolonged spell of inconsistent hockey:
I’ve said it a number of times that I didn’t think we were as good after Christmas. In saying that, we’ve played some real good games and didn’t win. I think Freddy getting injured and not being available for a period of time didn’t help us, either. But I think we can get going better for sure. But I also think it is an 82-game schedule. Steady on the rudder and let’s keep getting better.