Toronto Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after Thursday’s practice, discussing the Game 1 win over Cleveland, the status of Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman for Friday’s Game 2, the Jooris-Greening-Baptiste line, and Yegor Korshkov’s arrival in Toronto fresh off signing a two-year entry-level contract.
Coming into the playoffs, you were concerned about the five-on-five play of your squad. Is it still a concern here four games in?
Keefe: It was in the Rochester series with how it started in Games 1 and 2, but we knew that going into the series that those were going to be really tough matchups and it was going to be very difficult to carry play. I thought we made some good adjustments after Game 2 and were much better in Game 3 here on home ice. I thought that carried forward into last night’s game against Cleveland. We have shown some progress there for sure and we want to continue to grow in that area.
Obviously, we have added some people to our lineup and added more depth, so that helps us with matchups. We can start to win some shifts in terms of generating offense. That is going to be a continued theme, but we’re playing against a team that makes it hard. We scored a goal at 5-on-5 yesterday but just got one. They only gave up two in the entire series against Syracuse at even strength. It is a challenge to get offense out there for sure, but luckily for us yesterday, our special teams came through for us — power play breaks the game open. At 5v5, we’ve got to find ways to produce.
Has there been a growth in confidence with the line of Jooris-Greening-Baptiste as well?
Keefe: Greening and Jooris have done a terrific job for us. Last series, they played with Engvall and took on a lot of hard minutes and did a great job for us there. We’ve gone away from that here a little bit in the early going. We put Baptiste there and we liked that line yesterday there as well.
Greening and Jooris take on a lot of heavy lifting for our guys whether it is at even strength or on the penalty kill. It is making life a little bit easier for the rest of our lineup. We are going to continue to lean on them and have faith that they are going to do a good job.
What is the situation with Andreas Borgman and Calle Rosen?
Keefe: Both day-to-day at this point. We are going to see how they are in the morning and make a determination there in regards to the lineup. Both guys didn’t feel good enough to practice today, clearly, so we’ll just have to see how they are.
Rosen dodged a bullet there maybe yesterday? It looked serious.
Keefe: Yeah, definitely it doesn’t appear it is as serious but he is going to have some testing here later on today and will try to get a better idea of what is happening. Hopefully, there is nothing more severe that just didn’t show up in the initial pictures. But he is not any worse today than he was yesterday, so that is a good thing. We are going to hope to get both these guys back as soon as we can.
If not, is Joseph Duszak a guy that you’ve used a bit in these playoffs already?
Keefe: Yeah, Joey got in the one game there against Rochester and did a nice job for us. We’ve got confidence in both he and Oleksy who played in the last series. Both bring different elements, but we’ve got confidence in both those guys.
You’ve gotten to see Yegor Korshkov once in practice. He looked big, didn’t he?
Keefe: He’s certainly got size and is a presence out there, for sure. But I also like how he skates and shoots the puck. He is picking up the language better than we had anticipated. Timashov is really helping with that, but also just in the one-on-one engagement with him, he has got a general idea and most importantly, seems to have a real good sense around the rink on the ice of where to go and what is required. There is somewhat of a universal language when it comes to hockey and he seems to have that figured out. That is going to really help.
Could he play tomorrow night?
Keefe: We’re going to see how it is in the morning. He’s had a lot of stuff going on here. It has been a bit of whirlwind since he arrived. Certainly, we anticipate him getting in the series here very soon — if not tomorrow, it’ll be when we get down to Cleveland. We wanted to get him as integrated as possible and today’s practice will probably be our last practice for a while. We are going to see how he feels in the morning and make a call then.
Nick Baptiste seemed to do a really good job forechecking leading to the first goal last night that was a really pivotal one.
Keefe: For sure. Even in the Rochester series, he moved his feet and was a real factor. He is a good-sized guy and when he gets his feet moving, he is hard to slow down without taking a penalty. He can get on top of you quickly. That is what we have encouraged him to do and that’s also why we think he is a good fit with Greening and Jooris. They can really disrupt the other team. While there hasn’t been an abundance of offense coming from them, they win their shifts and make it really hard on the opposition. I don’t think the other team enjoys seeing those guys come over the boards, so that is a good thing for us.