Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 6-3 win over the New York Rangers on Friday night, improving the Leafs’ record to 18-14-4 on the season.
On the team’s performance:
We’ve talked about in some of the previous games where the third periods haven’t gone well that the second period was maybe when some of the issues started to come up. I thought some of the positives of the second period — which I thought there were lots — carried through to the third period. Obviously, we got a good start and the puck went in the net for us — that helped — but there were a lot of really good signs for our team in terms of how we retained the puck, which I thought was a real key to this game in particular. When their team has the puck, they’re a tough team to deal with. I thought we handled that well.
On the team not getting discouraged after giving up the lead heading into the third:
The message was just to keep going and stay with it. That was the challenge for us. The guys did and it worked out for us.
On what he has noticed with William Nylander recently:
I talked with them. We actually met this morning. He didn’t feel like he had a great trip out West in particular. He said he just didn’t feel good and he didn’t feel right. But I liked his practice and the work he had done back in Toronto. He was excited to get back and playing. We talked about some things, but really, I thought he had a much better game here today and got rewarded for it.
On whether there was something he noticed today about what made Nylander so effective:
There were times today where he was doing that — he has the puck a lot in the offensive zone. Guys come and try to get it from him and he is evading that. He is hanging onto the puck. He is really difficult to knock off the puck. That is where I really see his game rounding out. A lot of it is because of how he protects the puck. When it is not going well for him, those pucks get off his stick too quickly.
On Michael Hutchinson starting tomorrow and the team needing to build on tonight’s win in the back-to-back tomorrow:
We do, and we also have something to build on in terms of the last back-to-back. I know Hutch wasn’t in the net and Freddy was, but for me, still until today, that is the best game that we have played, in my opinion, since I’ve been here — just in terms of how competitive we were. I know we didn’t win the game. We didn’t give up very much to a very rested and very good Colorado team. It’s just how because of how we competed and how committed we were. We are going to be tapping into that in addition to the good things that came out of today.
On his satisfaction level with a 9-4-0 start to his coaching tenure:
Satisfaction is not a good word. We are going to be in a battle all season long here, right? Other teams just keep winning games. It is a tough league, obviously. I know that. We just have to continue to focus every single day on being our best and making improvements along the way.
On where he has seen the biggest improvements through 13 games:
We’ve seen progress for sure, and I like that. Even at times when it hasn’t looked the greatest, we are still seeing progress. Today was a different type of day. We score early again. The game gets away from us. It is even going into the third period, but then we get the lead. I thought we did a pretty good job of taking care of it. There is progress, and that’s really what you are looking for.