Mike Babcock addressed the media on Monday ahead of Game 7, discussing the do-or-die series finale in Boston, Mitch Marner’s quiet three games, Jake Gardiner’s ability to contribute, and John Tavares’ play in the series.
Your team has had good success bouncing back after losses in the series. What is it going to take tomorrow night to finish them off?
Babcock: I think the same thing as we have done in the other games. To me, besides the end of the game and at the start, they were better than us. They were quicker and played better. We have to respond and be better. I thought we started real good, and then for whatever reason, whether we got tight or frustrated, for 30 minutes there we didn’t skate like we could or execute like we could and we got ourselves in trouble. The bottom line is we’ve got to be better tomorrow. It is an opportunity for our hockey club. We look forward to it.
How can Mitch Marner go about creating a bit more offense? He’s just got the one shot in three games.
Babcock: I just think the biggest thing for Mitch is that you’re playing against real good players. Just breathe. Don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about what everyone else thinks. Just breathe and play hard and enjoy yourself. When he was a kid, he probably played road hockey, and at this time of year, whoever scored the winning goal the night before… Be the same. Just get out there and play.
You’ve eased Jake Gardiner into this series coming back from injury. How do you think he’s fared in the series?
Babcock: I think Gards has been good for us in the fact that he can still move the puck. Obviously, he’s been injured and it is pretty easy to see that when you watch. But I talked to him today and we need him to be good for us and just simple. He’s not playing against the same matchups he was before, but just be simple and be safe. When you get the puck at the offensive blue line, be yourself.
What kind of adjustments are you looking to see on the penalty kill?
Babcock: Well, we can’t let it go in. I think the biggest thing when it goes bad on you is that you get passive instead of just gas. Let’s go. Let’s put some pressure on them. The one goal is off the face-off right away and it bounces to them. It gets you on your heels. And then we were passive on the next one. They’ve got good players, so let’s not be passive. Let’s go after them. I thought we had a real good game on the penalty kill last time we were in Boston. We plan on doing the same.
You’ve been in a lot of one-game situations both in the NHL and at the Olympic level. How much can you control, realistically, in a one-game situation?
Babcock: I think you can control your preparation. I mean, before this series, I don’t think anybody is really surprised. Before the series, when you looked at the teams, these are good teams in the NHL. I don’t think there is a lot to give. In saying that, it is going to be a great opportunity for our team. I think you relish being in the situation. Enjoy being in it, but you have to play with good detail. You’ve got to play the way we’re supposed to play and look after the puck, and then you have a chance to be successful. I think that is what it is all about. You want to be in this situation and you want to make it go your way. Should be fun.
You’ve got 1,000s of fans out there really anxious at this point based on years past. What do you tell your fans?
Babcock: I don’t worry much about that. When I was walking around Yorkville, I hear from people how its would be… They were great to me last night. “Let’s go get them in Boston.” Everybody, our team included and our fans, wanted to win yesterday. But our fans… I mean, I live in the city and I walk around. They’re pretty pumped up and they want us to be successful. We want to be successful for them. The game is going to be played on the ice. We have to execute.
You obviously want to stick to what has given you guys success, but in Game 7, do you start taking any risks or trying different things?
Babcock: No. 100% the opposite of that piece of advice. But I appreciate the help though.
When you brought John Tavares in, did you think that he could be a difference maker and make a difference on a stage like this?
Babcock: I would say to you that he has been a difference maker and has made our team better. He has been excellent for us all the way through. He has been playing against real good players and I think he has been excellent in this series. No different than when we talked about Mitch, the same goes for John. Be out there, loose and driving, and do what you do. You’re playing against good players that are competing hard against you. Something is going to give. Make sure it is your way.