Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock addressed the media following Monday's practice at MasterCard Centre. Here's what he had to say...
What do you think of the play of Kadri and his line?
I think Naz has played better. I thought he played real well at the end of exhibition and then I thought he had his best game since I've been here in the regular season last game. He played a lot of the game against Malkin, I thought he played good defensive and created a lot of offence which is positive for us. Obviously we're a better team if Bozak is in the lineup because he had his best game before he was out. I think we have lots of guys getting better. I thought we were in a situation partway through the Pittsburgh game to win the game, I thought we set ourselves up to do that, I thought we ran out of gas and they were better than us in the third period, which I don't like to see. Next time we play Pittsburgh it's a back-to-back, we can't let that happen.
Do you have a timeline yet on Bozak?
No, I thought he was practicing today.
How long do you give Bernier with his first period woes?
Bernie will be the first to tell you that obviously he'd like it to go better in that. It's a good question, I haven't decided what I'm doing in Buffalo yet. I've delayed making that decision one more day. We need him to be better, especially in back-to-backs and at the start of games, you can't get down two. He's a big boy, he knows that, I thought he played real well after that point but you can't spot the other team two and then get started.
In your history of working with goaltenders, have you seen one who has such problems in the first period?
I wasn't here last year, I don't know know anything about it. I've got a small sample size so it hasn't gone as good as he would like obviously. My sample size, what I'm doing is we talked about it today. I'm not a big believer in putting your head in the sand and ignoring what's going on. I like to address it, we talked about it and, what I like about Bernie, he takes responsibility, he works hard and he's trying to do everything right. I think that with our team getting better structurally it's going to be easier for our goaltenders and ideally that'll help him. Obviously when you have the physical capabilities he has, that's the mental side of the game. The mental side of the game is everything until you get it looked after.
What are they doing when they generate speed through the neutral zone like Saturday?
I think when you execute well and you're in good spots and you play five together you do that. I really thought in the third period they got better and we got worse. We backed off and we didn't get into their D and suddenly they're coming at you in waves instead of you going at them. I like a lot of things we did. We had our best practice of the year today by far I thought -- guys seem to enjoy working and competing and getting more tempo in us. We're going to get better as a team, we just want to get better quicker than the process is letting us thus far is all.
Where can Rielly grow defensively?
Just everything. All he has to do is watch Hunwick. Face the right way when he's coming off the wall, he's got to get his stick in the right places, he's got to get gapped up, he's got to keep 'er under control until the right time. That's part of being a kid. Now, he skates miles, I thought he played real good against Sid the other night who's hard to handle in the corner. I thought he had his best defensive game of the year the other night. He made three plays probably that, I don't even know if he'd like to have them back, I'd like him to have them back because of when you go and when you don't go. He's going to learn that over time. I think he's doing great and we've got lots of guys who are getting better, which is a positive.
Do you like Rielly's speed on the penalty kill?
I think he's a good player, I like using him all the time. But I also think it's important on a team that everyone is important. He can play on the power play for sure for us and maybe he will but right now we think the best thing for him and for us is to get him to be the best he can be defensively and then the offence will take care of itself. Part of that is killing penalties with Hunwick.
Do you think Bozak will be available on Wednesday?
I think he's going to be available. I said I thought he was going to be available for practice today but we held him off one more day so ideally he'll be ready to go.
Can you tell us what happened to Bozak?
I could tell you.