Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his first-ever win as an NHL head coach in Arizona on Thursday night, snapping a six-game losing slide for the team and improving the Leafs’ record to 10-10-4 on the season.
On the team’s performance:
I thought the guys just went out and played with confidence and felt like they could take control of the game. It takes some time to establish that and we had to find our way through the first period and kind of feel out some things, but I thought once we settled into the game, we were full marks and the guys played well.
More importantly than how we played, I just thought we had really good energy on the bench. I was really impressed. Obviously, it’s my first time being part of the group like that. The interactions with the players on the bench, the energy, the vibe, the reaction of the players on Barrie’s goal — you could just see they really care for him as a teammate and really felt good for him. Those types of things are the biggest takeaways from the game.
On his first-ever game as an NHL head coach:
I thought it went well. It felt like a hockey game. I was a little behind on a couple of my line changes and would like to speed that up a little bit, but the players took care of me well there and I appreciated that. It felt like a hockey game to me. I didn’t know how it would be. The whole day felt very comfortable. I am obviously very happy about that, and the credit for that goes to the support staff for the help they’ve provided — the assistant coaches and training staff — for this transition. But just the players — they’ve been open-minded and welcoming and engaged. They just want to be coached. They allowed me to do that today, and I appreciated that.
We asked a lot of them today on a game day — a lot of new things coming at them. We tried to keep it as simple as possible, but still, it was new things coming at them and it mixed up the routine and all of those things. To come up with a pretty good effort… right until the very end of course, where we owed Freddy one there for sure, but we’re just really happy with today.
On what allowed the team to be successful:
I thought what we did best was they held on to the puck and through the neutral zone especially, and we got organized and used the skill and speed we’ve talked about. I thought that really established some really good play for us in the offensive zone and, at times, allowed us to control the play. That was the thing I was most impressed with. I thought that might be the easiest thing for them given the ability of the players.
On starting Barrie with Rielly to begin the game, the deployment of the D, and Barrie’s first goal of the season:
We just talked about the fact we were going to mix and match our D pairings in different situations throughout the game –offensive faceoffs, and just at times when we think we can get them on the ice together — and it’ll really help us offensively. We wanted to have a good first shift. We wanted to establish a good game and get the Matthews line going. We thought it was a good chance to do that.
Tyson is a guy we’re trying to mix things up a little bit with here and get him going. Today, obviously, the goal is a big weight off his shoulders. We’re going to continue to try to do those things.