TORONTO – Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock is not afraid to bring his team to the ice.
He has even done it without any equipment.
The Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup without their star defenceman, and they’re preparing to do the same without him in 2018-19.
But Babcock doesn’t take the media’s focus away from their game, even if he does.
“I think the only reason we’re in the playoffs right now is because we play the right way,” Babcock said Wednesday.
“There’s no reason to take our foot off the gas right now.”
Babcock said the Leafs are trying to get more out of their forwards, especially Dion Phaneuf, who has struggled in his first full season.
Phaneuff was minus-8 in 10 games this season, but has made the Leafs work hard to get him playing with the same intensity he did in his rookie season.
“We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got some young guys who can step up and make those plays, and get better at that,” Babcoat said.
It’s the same thing with Dion, it’s the first time he’s been on the ice for us. “
You want to give that opportunity to somebody who has played in this league for a long time.
It’s the same thing with Dion, it’s the first time he’s been on the ice for us.
We want him to be as good as he can be, but we’re still trying to find ways to help him.””
For the most part, we’ve just got to be careful not to lose sight of that.
We want him to be as good as he can be, but we’re still trying to find ways to help him.”
The Maple Leaf players said they had a hard time keeping Phaneust healthy during their first season together, especially when he went down with an injury.
“It was a tough year, obviously, especially after he got hurt,” Phaneuft said.
“He’s been a great player, he’s a good teammate, he always has been a hard worker, he brings a lot of energy to the table, he gives us a lot on the defensive side, he gets us moving, he has a really good shot, he makes plays, he can play on the rush and he’s always been a real good player.”
The Leafs will play three games against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday and Saturday, with another two against the Washington Capitals on Saturday.
They’ll play two more games against Columbus on Tuesday and Wednesday.
They’ll play a third game on Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings.
“You know, we all get emotional when we win, and we get emotional for our team,” said Phaneurft.
“But we’re all doing our best to be the best we can be.”