Mike Babcock addressed the media after his team’s 6-3 win over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night, sending the Leafs into the All-Star Break on a winning note.
On the team’s performance and the slump-busting performances:
I really liked our first penalty kill and the thing ends up in our net. I thought our guys had done a great job, but that is unfortunate. We had a good effort tonight. Good for guys to be rewarded.
I thought Brownie, Willy and Naz had a really good night for them. It was good for all of them to feel good. It’s important for Willy but I think important for Willy and Naz as well. They were an important line for us. I thought Tavares’ line matched up; with Kaps and Hyms, they did a real good job against the #19 line there with Ovechkin on it. Obviously, they’re a handful. That was important as well. But we had lots of guys on deck tonight and found a way to win.
On William Nylander’s performance and what led to his three-assist game:
Just being competitive and winning battles. On one goal where they scored, he tracked all the way back and they got it. The other one, he won a battle just inside the defensive blue line and the defensive circle. The reason you play in the o-zone is because you win battles all over the ice so you can play in the o-zone. That line was really good.
On the Marleau – Matthews – Marner line:
They were fine. It was good for Matty to get one. He got one on the power play. I thought the power play was really good. Tavares won a bunch of battles to get the puck back there. I thought that was good. But I thought we had lots of good players tonight.
On whether the Marleau – Matthews – Marner line is likely to stay together after the break:
I don’t know. I haven’t watched the game. We’ll go through it and see what happens.
On what he hopes his team accomplishes with the week off:
I’d like them to have fun. I’d like them to not think about hockey. I’d like them to work out enough so that when they arrive back, they’re ready to go.
Player Reactions: Nazem Kadri, William Nylander, Auston Matthews
Auston Matthews on playing with Mitch Marner for a full game for the first time:
I thought it went well. We had some really good opportunities and controlled the play a lot. I’ve never really played a full game with Mitch besides power play. Never really 5-on-5. It is a bit of a feeling-out process, but he is so fun to play with. You get a sense of where he is at on the ice, and when he’s got it, he creates so much space for himself with his edgework and everything he can do. You just try to get open.
I’m not sure Babs likes it too much, but I enjoy playing with him a lot. It’s up to him, obviously, and whoever he puts there after the break, I’ll be happy with.
Nazem Kadri on whether William Nylander’s confidence is growing:
If you guys just get off his back, I think he’ll be fine. He’s been pretty positive and trying to have a positive mentality. We seemed to find some early chemistry. Willy is a good player. He is too good not to be productive. You saw that tonight.
Kadri on breaking out of his slump with a hat trick:
I just stayed positive and stayed with it. Like I’ve been telling you guys, I haven’t really been super frustrated or anything. Just trying to have a positive mentality and be a good teammate and good things happen.
Kadri on the emphasis on entering the break on the winning note after the team’s recent slump:
We wanted this one for sure. We wanted to feel good about ourselves heading into the break and I think we achieved that. Previous games, I feel like we’ve been trending in the right direction and haven’t been getting results. It’s nice to play a full 60 and beat a good team.
Kadri on the success of his line with Brown and Nylander:
We were just working. The work ethic was there. Just making responsible, reliable plays and letting our skill take over once we are in the offensive zone. I think we’ve got a pretty good mesh of playmaking, scoring, and hustle on that line. It sure worked out tonight.
William Nylander on heading into the break on a three-point game after the slump he’s experienced:
I might not have wanted a break right now. No, it’s a good break here to come back recharged.
Nylander on how his legs are feeling and if his game is rounding into form:
I feel like the legs are good. Everything is feeling better and better. I felt better probably like 6 or 7 games ago, but pucks and missing nets and stuff, it’s obviously affected that.
I feel like I’ve had good games where the puck just hasn’t gone in, but I think this was a good game and good for the confidence for sure when it comes to the production side of it.
Matthews on the team’s performance:
We played a pretty complete game. Everyone was skating. We didn’t give them much space, especially their good players. I think we made it pretty hard on them. Obviously, we were fresh, so that helps as well.
Matthews on the power play finally breaking through:
That’s how we need to do every power play. We were on the puck. We kept getting it back. We shot it and got it back consistently and then were able to capitalize. We need to probably do a better job of drawing more penalties so we can get more opportunities, but nonetheless, it was a good power play for us.