Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe

Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night, improving the Leafs’ record to 11-10-4 on the season.

On the differences compared to Thursday’s game in Arizona:

Very different, of course. The opponent was different and the challenge as different. The game was different. I thought our energy level was different. We just looked like a tired team out there for a lot of the game, but I liked the fact that we got scored on in the first shift, and while it took us a couple of shifits to find our way back, I thought we took over the game after that.

Obviously, we built ourselves a very good lead. That’s a good team, so they’re going to push and make it hard on us. Ultimately, we battled our way and found our way to finish it off.

On whether he was just as excited for Tyson Barrie’s second goal or if it’s “old hat” now:

A little more old hat, but it certainly felt good for him, just the way it went in. We made our switch with the power play and that’s the first power play with that group together. That it works out that way is pretty nice.

On the importance of gaining confidence off winning two in a row:

Wins, in general, are important. I thought, while it was ugly, what it did require was for us to really battle. Especially down the stretch to the end of the game, we had some guys out there really competing and really making it hard on the other team and getting their sticks on pucks and denying lanes. They were really tired and fought through that.

I’ve only been here a few days, but these guys have been on the road here for a long time. They’ve been grinding and they’ve been through a lot. I liked that they persevered and found a way. Freddy battled real hard in the net. It’s a good win. We’ll get out of here with another two points, get home, enjoy a couple of practice days, and get back out on the road.

On the opportunity to get a few practice days in a row early this week:

It is nice. It is important. Things will settle down for me. Today was a nice normal day. It was a little slower. There was no morning skate given the 5:00 p.m. start. We were able to spend more time together as a staff in a more relaxed environment. It will be like that when we get home. We will work on some things and continue to grow the group. I will get a chance to continue to grow my relationship with the individual players. To me, that is the priority right now and the other stuff will come together in time.

On his preference for the ice-time split between the two units on the power play:

In particular with our team, the way that it is, we have elite talent. The more we can utilize them, if the energy level is good, we are going to take advantage of that. That was sort of the method to the madness of calling the timeout at that time. I just thought it was a key point in the game. If we could find a way to score here, it would be really good for us, so we wanted to make sure those guys were fresh.

On Andersen leaving his crease angry about the non-call on possible goalie interference prior to the 4-3 Avalanche goal:

I had no idea what was going on. We were searching trying to see if there was a goalie interference and whether we had to challenge something. It was really loud in the building at the time, so we couldn’t really communicate with Freddy. I didn’t even know the rule and whether he is allowed to leave his net like that. I think, technically, he is not. They could’ve called a penalty for him leaving the net. I didn’t quite know what happened there.

On the most challenging thing for the players to grasp with the new systems:

The most challenging thing to grasp is when to hang onto the puck a little bit longer than you would, and when to move it quickly, and when to utilize speed and get the thing moving up the ice. That is the difficult part — that decision making. I think we have players with really good hockey sense and really good skill and in time, they’ll recognize the patterns and the pressures that are coming at them. They’ll also recognize the time in the game and the time in the period and what is happening in the shift. All of those types of things, I think, we’ll be able to talk them through in time and they’ll recognize it.

I thought one of the nice things we talked about after the second period — obviously, the second period wasn’t great for us — is that I thought, “This is us as a team.” A new system and a new philosophy here. Try to figure out how to play with a lead. That is a challenge for us. We were fortunate that we got the win. At the same time, we will have lots of good clips and teaching points to be able to be better next time.