After last night’s game, Mike Babcock had a really interesting comment about how the Toronto Maple Leafs react to the final minutes of play, and how they should react:
“We got some saves, but I thought we did the job. I didn’t like that we took a penalty; I didn’t like Carrick taking the penalty there. All in all, we turned it into something it’s not. It’s just a game. Play like the game is tied and go get the next one. Don’t be conservative, don’t back up, don’t protect anything, just play the damn game. When it goes bad for you, you start making it a bigger deal than it is. It’s no big deal, just play.”
Transcription via Mark Masters, TSN
Now, in a sense, this feels a little weird from him, seeing as many of these late-game “meltdowns” have come with one or both of the fourth forward line and the third defensive pair on the ice, or with a penalty kill unit on as a result of an infraction taken by that group.
Babcock talking about pressing in the third is exactly what I want to hear, yet, his deployment is a little contrarian to that. Maybe it’s just a matter of running out of options at the wrong time, and that those line selections aren’t what he’s planning for. I’m hoping that’s the case, because while it really doesn’t feel like the actions are matching the words, the words align with my own thoughts.
But I’d be curious to hear what you all think. Is pressing the way to go late in the game, or is it passive protection play? Are the Leafs sending out the right players to close things out, or is there a particular group that should be there instead?
Leave your thoughts in the comments below.