Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 6-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Friday evening, dropping the Leafs’ record to 12-11-4 on the season.
On Michael Hutchinson ending up on the wrong end of the score line again:
There will be a lot of focus on Hutch, of course, but there was a lot more going on in the game than just that. We were in a good spot. Hutch had played an excellent first period and allowed us to get out of there with a one-goal lead. We built on that lead in the second period and then I didn’t think we took care of it very well. We were sloppy with the puck in important spots — things we spoke about in between periods after the first and we didn’t adjust well and we didn’t care of it. That is an area we have to clean up. I thought we just handed them the puck in bad spots and they have good shooters.
On the team not taking advantage of breakaways in the first half of the game:
Those, of course, are factors. When you look back at how the game finishes, Willy was in alone there twice in the first period and Kappy in the second period, so you’re 0 for 3 on breakaways. You don’t play a very good hockey game, and yet you push back in the third enough to make it a fight right until the end. You end up within one goal plus the empty net. There are a lot of encouraging signs there still that are positives for us, but just a lot of lessons to be learned for sure and we’ll make sure we clean those up for tomorrow.
On why the team was not more composed with the lead:
You’ve got to give some credit to them. I thought they did a nice job. Things that we talked about before the game: The neutral zone is going to be hard to get through today, and just how they set up their structure there with all the games we watched previous to this, other teams have had a hard time getting through there. We thought that would be better for us, but I thought we were in good spots and then just kind of forced one more pass instead of putting the puck into a better place where we could’ve gotten after it. We did a better job of that in the third period at times, and it paid off for us. We have to do more of that.
On the message to Hutchinson after another tough loss:
I think we just look at the positives. He gave our team a chance to win the game, I thought, in the first period. We got through that up 1-0. It’s not just on the goaltender. We’ve got a 2-0 lead and we are set up well as a hockey team and we have to take care of the game. I didn’t think we did that. Again, you look at the goals that were scored, and there were dangerous shooters in tough spots for us defensively — clean looks. You can’t give them that. I thought a lot of that came as a result of us not being in control of the game the way we need to.
On his first game at home as head coach of the Leafs tomorrow night on HNIC:
I am excited for it — even more so now. Things have been going well here in my previous games, but what we want to be is a team that can sustain when things are going well, and when they don’t go well, we want to be able to push back and get better quickly. We have a chance to do that on home ice. I am excited for tomorrow.
On Auston Matthews playing just under 25 minutes, a career-high, and whether he struggled throughout the game:
I thought that he definitely had some chances. I didn’t think really any of our guys had great nights tonight, to be honest. I thought some of their best people were controlling things out there. I didn’t think we had the same level of play throughout our lineup.
With Auston, I played him a lot early in the game. That might’ve hurt us when we were down playing from behind in the second half. We couldn’t use our bench like we’d like to — like we have in some other games. But we need all of our guys to be better tomorrow.