Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his first victory in Toronto as head coach after the Leafs’ 2-1 overtime victory over Buffalo.
On Andersen’s two highlight-reel saves in overtime before Tavares’ winner:
Well, you know, it’s nice to have Freddy there. It’s nice to have a guy that’s capable of that. You need that at different times without question. That gives us confidence as well in doing so and obviously he was a big reason why we get a chance to keep the lead as long as we did and then give us a chance to get it to overtime.
On the atmosphere in his first game in Toronto:
The fans are into it. There’s a lot of them, it’s a big crowd. It’s nice to be home — I’ve been in this environment before but never quite like this, never quite this full, never quite this much emotion and energy and all those types of things.
On the team’s overall effort:
I would say inconsistent. I would say that we had some really good moments — I thought the start of the second and third period especially were really good for us. Not where we want it to be [overall], not what we’re capable of. We’ve got to give some credit to Buffalo. I think they did a really good job in both games against us and made it a little harder on us than it’s been in previous games. That’s the next phase for us — to try and find a way to play the way we want to and the way we’re capable of when the other team has got a good plan and is making it difficult on us
On John Tavares, who has goals in three straight games:
I think it’s big. Players that have scored a lot expect to score a lot and whether you’re a veteran or not, you want to score and you want to feel good — you want to feel you’re making an impact on the team in that manner. We expect him to score. We need him to score. He’s been very good in a lot of other areas as well for us — he’s taken a lot of heavy matchups. It’s nice to see him this weekend and here, in particular, finding the net.
On what it means to him to have JT as captain:
Well, he’s been very consistent for me — both in his effort and his performance and his demeanor. He comes to the rink every day and he’s prepared himself mentally, physically. He does the work. He’s got great perspective to be able to offer me in terms of what the team needs or what the feeling around the team is. He’s also a great voice for the team. He’s plugged into a lot of things that are happening. It’s been real nice for me to have him coming on here early.
On his All-Marlies fourth line of Engvall-Gauthier-Timashov:
Obviously, I’m very familiar with all three players so there is a comfort level there for sure. Of course, I’m trying to sort out just where that comfort level should be here in this league, but I thought this weekend those guys were outstanding and really gave me a lot of confidence to put them on the ice. A lot of good things happened when they were out there. Of course, when the game gets tied, plus the fact that we wanted to get matchups and other lines out there a bit more took away from them a little bit, but every time I put them on the ice in these two games, in particular, those guys did a good job.
On he and his family’s experience with the Leafs so far:
Getting to talk to more of my family — my sister, her husband, and her kids are here, my parents were down in Arizona as well. Seeing them, having them be a part of it, you can see how much is impact them as well. That’s a big part of it. I’m kind of stuck in a bubble here doing my work and doing my thing and you’re kind of losing track of some of the other stuff. There’s a lot been going on. The family part of it is something to not lose sight of and I make sure I connect with it. A night like this here at home, having more of them here — my nieces, my nephews, my kids. It’s nice to have that for sure.
On if he’s been surprised with Pierre Engvall’s comfort level thus far:
I don’t know if surprise is the right word. I think he established himself as someone who was making his mark on every shift and every game he’s playing in the American League, which is usually a pretty good sign that a player is ready for a new challenge. I think, over the years that I’ve spent with the Marlies, I’ve seen players like that. I’ve seen players that get called up here for the Leafs and they’ve done pretty well. I think if you go through it, it’s hard to think of a player that’s been recalled from the Marlies and didn’t play well right away. The expectation is that he can fill in and play a role. With my arrival, we put him on the penalty kill — we think he’s helped us there as well. I’ve played him at different times in different games at center and that’s something we added to his game with the Marlies, the ability to play multiple positions. Big guy, skates really well. There’s a lot we can do with him. He does look good and he’s made an impact for us.
On getting used to the NHL:
I’ve watched a lot of Leafs hockey; I haven’t watched much of any other teams, so I’ve had to really rely on the rest of our staff for that a lot, then also taking the time and getting to know it myself while still balancing our own team and figuring out what’s happening with us. We’re trying to think a step or two down the road about what’s next for us and how we can add things without putting too much on the players. I would say those have been the biggest challenges.
On if he’s changed the PK himself or left it to assistant coach Dave Hakstol:
I’ve really trusted Dave to do some different things and do what he does, but also there have been different things that he’s been wanting to do or adjust or change. We supported him in that. We’ve changed the personnel in some case of course with Engvall and Andreas Johnsson having joined there [the PK]. That’s changed the dynamic a little bit, subtle things like that. In terms of the structure itself, we’ve made a couple of small adjustments but really Dave’s done a great job of preparing the team there and we’ve seen good progress.