Mike Babcock addressed the media via conference call on Thursday, discussing the Game 4 loss to Boston, the team’s fourth line, William Nylander’s play at third-line center, and the challenge ahead in Game 5.
Quick question about William Nylander — good possession numbers and shots. Do you feel that he is maybe being a bit too cute versus getting the puck on net and creating rebounds and that kind of thing?
Babcock: I thought we had lots of rubber on the net last night but we could’ve had way more. I thought Boston did a good job of being inside and we were trying to pass it in instead of shooting. There is no question you’ve got to hit the net and you’ve got to get the puck to the paint. Just with the way the series is, you’ve got to find loose change around the net and score.
There has been a lot of talk this morning about this supposed Drake curse. What are your thoughts on that and do you believe in it?
Babcock: That’s probably the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. I’ve heard lots of things since I’ve come here, but that’s one of the craziest things. The game is played on the ice by us. There is no curse whatsoever. We are in a series and it is a good series. We’re excited to be in it and we’re excited to have the opportunity. Any time anyone wants to come and support us, we’re all in.
There is speculation that Sean Kuraly might come back in the series for Boston and he could add some speed and creativity. Are you ready for that, and what do you think of your own fourth line’s ability to turn the momentum around?
Babcock: I think our fourth line has been pretty good. The big thing for us is that we’ve just got to start on time and play right. I thought last night we got carried away in the first period. We didn’t give up lots, but what we gave up was too many quality chances early. We didn’t take care of the puck. We’ve got to take care of that. But our fourth line has been good.
Could you enlighten us a bit on where the breakdowns were on Boston’s power play goals, particularly the first one?
Babcock: Just a spread power play. It’s easy to sort out. We didn’t sort it out up top and they ended up outnumbering us on the bottom. In the end, we gave up an easy one. The big thing for us — we just went over it this morning — is we are not executing on it at game time.
You talked before the playoffs started about the fountain of youth kicking in for Patrick Marleau. Have you seen enough of that from him already or is there more he can bring as well?
Babcock: I actually thought their line was good last night. When I go through the game here today and see opportunities they created, I thought he did a ton of good things for us. I was impressed with that group. I thought, especially early in the game, they were our best line early in the game when the rest of us weren’t quite as good and it gave us a chance to get going. They scored a big goal for us, too, down the stretch there to give us a chance in the game. I liked that group last night.
Going into Game 5, do you take something from the fact that you won there early and that you came back late last night and also won Game 3? The Boston Garden being a tough place to play, do you figure you make some headway there and it’s not the intimidating place it was maybe a few years ago going into Game 5?
Babcock: That’s the way I look at it here. This is a real good opportunity for our group. In the end, to get to where we want to go, we’ve got to push through and overcome opportunities like what we are about to face. It is all about growing a team and building a program here that has a chance each and every year. We are excited about our opportunity.
Even yesterday’s game, we’ve liked three of the four of the games we’ve played — the energy, the way we moved. We just made too many critical mistakes yesterday. We just did. We can’t make those mistakes, but we are looking to have an opportunity here tomorrow.
What do you like about how William has handled the increased responsibility while playing at center the last couple of games?
Babcock: I just thought that two games ago, he was real committed defensively. He had some real good battles and did a good job. I thought last night he had the puck way more. That line spent a lot of time in the offensive zone and created a lot and had good opportunities and good looks. He probably felt better about his last game than he did two games ago, but in the end for us, it is just about winning. I think he is going in the right direction.
There was a shift late in the game where Zach Hyman had trouble getting off the ice after taking a hit? How is he doing now?
Babcock: I just saw him about an hour ago. He seems to be doing good. Hyms is a tough kid. He is going to find a way to play. Obviously, there will be lots of people at this time of year who won’t be feeling as good as they should be, but they’re pushing through and that’s what it’s all about.