Mike Babcock met with the media on Saturday to discuss the Game 5 loss in Washington, a do-or-die Game 6 at home on Sunday, the power play, and more.
63 attempts on net last night. Do you like your chances tomorrow if you can repeat that?
Babcock: When you go through the game — and we spend quite a bit of time on it at this time of year, to say the least — there were lots of real good things. Obviously, we’d have liked to get one more and them to get one less, but we like the situation. We like being in overtime. We like the one-shot game. Now we’ve got to win a game at home. We haven’t been as good at home. I don’t know if it’s nerves, or trying to do too much, but we we’ve got to be better at home. That’s our plan. We look forward to going back to Washington.
So much this team has learned this year. What would forcing a Game 7 do?
Babcock: I just think our only opportunity to continue to play is to do that. That has to be our focus. Just focus on the process and doing the little things right and everything will look after itself.
When you have reviewed the power play over the last couple of games, what have you noticed?
Babcock: I didn’t think the power play was bad until last game, and then last game we bobbled and turned the puck over way too much. Give them credit, but a lot of them were unforced by ourselves. We can do a little bit better job. We won four faceoffs and we didn’t do much with them. We can win a few more faceoffs in that area, and then just overall execution in our breakouts. We did a good job. We entered five of six in the third, but the first two we didn’t. Any time you enter that many times, you’re not staying in their zone enough. We’ve got to do a little better job. We went through that today. Both groups will be dialled in and ready to go tomorrow.
Was it more a question of what Washington was doing to thwart the power play or what you guys were doing?
Babcock: I think there are two parts to that. You’ve got to give them credit. They did a good job. In saying that, that’s what I addressed already… the fact that we felt we bobbled the puck way too many times. Unforced errors for no reason. We felt that today was a good day for us to go through that. We met with our groups individually that way. We’re dialled in and ready to go tomorrow.
You talked about tomorrow night and not letting the crowd dictate… is that just nerves and not getting lost in the moment, kind of thing?
Babcock: Don’t get me wrong, we love the crowd and we love the energy and we like everything that is going on, but what we’ve got to do is just play. They’re here to cheer us on and they’re going to support us like crazy. We know that. That doesn’t mean you’ve got to do more. Just keep doing your same simple things. Take care of the puck. Forecheck right. Faceoff right. Do all the little things right and it’ll look after itself. You start tying to do too much and then it goes the opposite way, especially in a series as tight as this one.
What have you seen from Mitch and what he might have to do to get more shots and more offense?
Babcock: I just think he’s like all young players when you start. It goes away on you in a hurry. You can’t believe there is no space. No one loves hockey more than Mitch Marner and no one is more competitive than Mitch. We talked about that here today. He’ll be great tomorrow. The other thing about Mitch is he’s a big moment guy. He’ll find his way.
Does that just speak to the learning curve of being in the playoffs for the first time? Some guys are finding it a little easier than others?
Babcock: I just think sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. Obviously, Mitch has been a real driver for us all year long. I still think he is, but it’s a little play here or there. He’s just got to dig in. The other thing about guys who score and feed off of having the puck is that sometimes you don’t get the puck. You’ve got to come to grips with that and enjoy the touches you do have and work hard to get it back.
Where do you see opportunities for the Bozak line to improve?
Babcock: I went through the game there and they ended up being a little better than I thought originally. We went through it today it with them – what they do well and what they have to do to be successful in this series. Once again, with all offensive guys – this would be the same for the guys on their team – the scoring chances… There are not a lot of scoring chances. You go long moments in the game where nothing happens. You’ve got to overcome that and just keep grinding so that when you do get your chances you continue to play the same way. I think that’s the biggest thing. When you go through everybody’s line in the series, especially in the last game, their lines and our lines… there wasn’t a lot going on.
Five one-goal games. How much do you think your group truly believes compared to the start of the series?
Babcock: Oh, huge. That’s what I said to them going into overtime last night. I’m hoping it’s overtime again tomorrow, to tell you the truth. I think it’s a great opportunity for our team. We’re playing against a good team and we’re playing well and having fun doing it. I think it’s just relishing the moment. Relish today. Take in all of the atmosphere and get energized and get ready to go again tomorrow. It’s a lot of fun for our group, and you should enjoy it.
In your experience, is this one of the tightest series you’ve been involved in?
Babcock: This is what I’d tell you. The one you’re in is always the tightest because it’s the one you’re in. How’s that?
Barry Trotz said this morning that when you have a chance to push someone off a cliff, you want to push them off a cliff, which is a little bit cryptic. What does that lead you to expect from Washington?
Babcock: I think the way I say it… when you have someone down, and you have a chance to step on them, you step on them, or they might get up and kill you. I agree with him 100%, but we’re in the same thing. If we don’t win, we go home. There should be no more desperate team than us. We’re all aware and understand that fully.
You told the Verizon Centre people you’d see them in a couple of days?
Babcock: They were being nice to me on the way out, saying, “have a good year,” so I said, “I’ll see you in a couple days.” In my mind and in my heart, that’s what I know is going to happen.
What did you learn about the resolve and the determination of this team during that push into the playoffs where they were, like you mentioned, facing elimination every night?
Babcock: I just think we’ve got a good group here and they want to continue to play. They showed it then and we have to show it now, though. Obviously, it’s a different level now than it was – substantially different. That’s why you play, is for these opportunities. We’re excited about it.
Has your confidence level about what this group can do risen throughout the series or have you always seen this as…
Babcock: Just like you, I saw a group of guys come to camp and obviously we’ve come a long, long way. As you raise your belief in them, you raise your expectations, too, and you want more. I think that’s just human nature. You always want a little bit more. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, though.