Mike Babcock’s post-game comments after his team was eliminated in overtime in Game 6 against Washington.
Obviously, it’s soon, but difficult separating pride and disappointment here right now?
Babcock: You’re disappointed for sure. You have an opportunity to get to overtime again. You have a chance. They were way better than us in overtime, I thought. But, from our perspective, we got to play a really good team; a really well-coached team with real good players. We got to find out where we’re at, where our players are at. Until you’ve been through the playoffs with players, you don’t really know the level of a player you have. You learn a lot about your team. I’m really proud of our guys. I think, from where we were and the expectations coming in… You know, I never even knew Mitch was going to make the team. There are so many different things you don’t know. Our young guys are good. To build a program like they have, where you’re a contender every single year, you’ve got to keep going. Today is disappointing, anyway you look at it. I had to give myself a good talking to. They tell me I’m one of the worst after losing out in the playoffs at these press conferences. I had to give myself a little tightening before I came in here, but the reality is it’s a great year for our team. It would’ve been great to play Game 7 in Washington.
Can you share a bit about what you learned about your guys in these six games?
That was my question.
Babcock: It’s a good one.
Why can’t you then?
Babcock: I’m just not going to. I might do it in the exit meeting, but I’m just not going to tonight.
What can they take out of this going forward into next season?
Babcock: I think we’ve had great growth with our team. Unbelievable, actually, from the start of the year. It’s been an exciting year. I was telling someone the other day, “if you’re not from Toronto and you come to Toronto, you have no idea how spectacular it is.” From you people – the media coverage – to the fan base, to the love of the team… it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. If you’re a good player and you like winning, this is the best place you could ever play. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s fantastic. Now, we’ve got to have a team to match that opportunity. That’s what we’re going to try to build here over time. We’ve got lots of good young kids. I thought our kids were good.
Some of us keep waiting all series for the Caps to maybe show why they’re the top seed for a longer stretch. It never really happened, but I would argue after you guys went up 1-0, they had maybe their best stretch of their series.
Babcock: I thought so, too. I really did. I didn’t think we had the puck much after that. You have a chance to walk out the door for overtime and it’s in your building. You’re in an elimination. Push them. We didn’t push them; they pushed us. They were better. You’ve got to get to a certain level of game to find out about your people. Just because you can play regular season games and be good enough to get into the playoffs, doesn’t mean you can win a championship. Those are way different people, way different players. As a coach, and a management group, who has been in it a long time, you’ve seen what it takes. In the playoffs, there is nowhere to hide. You’re just looking across at the guy. Kadri knew he was going up against Backstrom every single time and vice versa. They knew #92 was coming second, with Matthews. There is no tricking anybody. Trotz wasn’t tricking me. I wasn’t tricking him. Here it is. Let’s get at her. So, you find out a lot about your guys.
What did you make of Andersen’s performance tonight?
Babcock: Outstanding. I thought he was really good. When they got it going at times and we made some mistakes sorting things out because of their speed thorough the neutral zone, I thought he was really good. That’s an important building block for our team. I thought we did a good job last summer to get us a goalie who can be a franchise goalie. I still think there is a learning curve learning to play so many games. You find out what fitness level is all about in the NHL. He’s going to have to have a big summer. A lot of our guys learned that. Naz: If you’re going to play against the best players, you’ve got to get more fit. You understand that. A lot of our young people – they’re light yet, but so were those guys a couple of years back. You’ve got to earn the pounds by training and doing good things. It’s a big summer for our team.