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Babcock on special teams, goaltending and more

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs


Here's what Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had to say following Tuesday's practice.

How important is special teams in the effort you got last night for a win?

Reimer was good and gave us an opportunity, which is so important. It instills confidence in your group. Obviously the penalty kill against that team is very, very important and then to get a couple of power play goals, even though our power play probably wasn't as good last night as it has been lots of nights when we didn't score, we were still rewarded and that leads to confidence and confidence is important in this league. We had a good day here today, lots of energy and the guys seem to be excited about the opportunity tomorrow.

How important is it for Reimer or one of your goaltenders to steal a game?

I just think it's real important and it's important what you do early in games to allow your team to get going. Scoring first and then getting the second before they did is very important and your goalie is a part of that because he helps you get saves. If you think of the other night against Pittsburgh, Fleury had just stopped a bunch of shots and then a breakaway on Grabs and then they came down and scored. I was watching LA play the other night, I think they were playing Nashville if I'm not mistaken, they had three point blank chances on the power play and Quick made the saves. The next thing you know they came down right at the end of the penalty and scored and they scored on the next shift. Suddenly they're up 3-2. Those are big points in games and Reims gave us a good opportunity last night.

On Reimer 'excelling' when facing 40 or more shots:

Well obviously we don't want to give up 40-plus shots. What we did is we felt, when we went through chances today, we were leading in scoring chances 10-7 after two periods and they outchanced us 7-1 in the third. So any way you look at it is they pushed and we were careful. As you learn how to win what you do is continue to play like the game is tied and you're always going for the next one. When you're not winning you tend to get more cautious at the end of games so you've got to rely on your goaltender more.

Where do you see the improvements from Phaneuf defensively?

I just think he's skating better. He's got to continue to skate better and when he's fresh he gets there and applies puck pressure and he's playing real well. When he fatigues in games he's not quite as good. It's real important for us to have him fresh just like everybody on the back end and put as much puck pressure as we possibly can and give forwards no room. We're trying to do that as a five man unit, which helps our D. I think Dion has done a good job for us, he has been one of our most consistent guys, he's been a good leader in the room -- not just vocally but the way he trains and the way he acts and the professional he is. That's important, that's what you want from your captain.

Does having someone like Gardiner make things easier on Dion?

I thought Jake was playing real well, got injured and hasn't been as good since. He's a real important player on this team, obviously him and Hunwick and Rielly are elite skaters -- Rielly has got to be in the top of the League in that department. The quicker they can get back and get the puck going, the less you've go to play defence.

On Bernier, Bozak, van Riemsdyk who were absent from practice:

Bozak is personal reasons... van Riemsdyk is ready to go tomorrow. Bernier is day-to-day.

On World Cup of Hockey rumours:

I just know there is a press conference on Thursday.

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