Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night, improving the Leafs’ record to 19-14-4 on the season.
On the team’s performance:
We got saves early. We clearly needed that. We needed just some time to find our game. This is a tough game today. This is a lot of mental challenges and hurdles for our team coming into the game. You look at the fact that we have been rolling pretty well as a group and how the game went against Detroit the last time we played them… We’re playing back-to-back, they’re fresh and haven’t played since Tuesday. There are a lot of different things there, and then you get Hutch and the back-to-back factor. There are a lot of things there for us. Obviously, I didn’t like how we dealt with it early. Once we found our game, particularly in the third period, I thought we were real good.
On Hutchinson getting his first win:
It is huge, of course. All of the attention will be on Hutch and I recognize, of course, why that has been a story. But it is also for our group. It is not just Hutch that hasn’t done well in these games. Our team hasn’t done well in these games. It is important for us to get a good result, particularly with how it went in the third period especially. There were a lot good things there and hopefully we can move past this whole thing now and it just becomes any other game, the way it should be.
On the decision to rejig the lines with Kapanen and Nylander moving down next to Kerfoot, Hyman moving up next to Matthews and Marner, and Tavares joining Engvall and Mikheyev:
I just felt we kind of needed to mix it up a little bit and try to change the chemistry and spark something and try to mix up the rhythm of the game.
With that [Matthews] line, I just thought they didn’t get much going offensively. They were getting stalled in the neutral zone a lot. Also, I just didn’t really like the other lines and how things were moving. I just wanted to mix things up and I thought we got some really good shifts in that second period from the Gauthier line. I just kind of shortened things up and some guys didn’t play as much as others.
On whether the Hyman – Matthews – Marner line was something he had been wanting to try out:
I’ve got a number of things that are in the back of my mind all the time. It just kind of felt that the Matthews line was getting stalled. I thought actually the Tavares line was doing fine. But the Matthews line didn’t have much going on and I wanted to give Matthews a chance to get going and change that chemistry a little bit. I thought that with Mikheyev and Engvall with Tavares, I thought I could still trust that group playing against the Larkin line just fine. It worked out for today.
On Nylander playing less tonight after the demotion:
It is the way that it goes. Some nights, guys are going to play more than others. Obviously, Willy had an outstanding game yesterday and produced a lot for us and was a difference maker for us. Today, it was other guys. That is the way it goes. That’s part of having a team and it is part of an 82-game season. You mix it up back and forth.
On the confidence gained from winning six of seven:
I would hope it serves us well. As a coaching staff, we have tried to make sure it is top of mind in terms of where the progress has been but also where we can go and where we want to continue to get better. But the players have been there, too. In the conversations with them, they recognize there are areas they want to get better at. We are looking to build a team that can sustain itself over difficult times against difficult opponents and all of those types of things. We have continued to see progress. Like you saw at the start of the game today, it is not perfect and I am not sure it is ever going to be perfect, but we are going to do our best to try to get there.
On what has stood out in particular about that seven-game stretch:
I think our special teams have really sort of given us confidence. For the most part, we have been either level or positive on special teams. That has really helped us. And then just our depth. Different players on different days. We know who the real difference makers are on the team. Those guys have produced very well. But we have gotten contributions all throughout the lineup, and that includes some guys that have moved in and out.
On Trevor Moore’s return to the lineup:
I thought he did well. I thought that the Gauthier line had some really excellent shifts that really helped us a great deal in the second period. In fact, we showed a couple of clips to the team between the second and the third. One was that line just doing a good job of kind of getting through the neutral zone the way we wanted them to and playing in the offensive zone the way we wanted them to. I thought that queued us up well to play in the third.
On whether the former Marlies on the team should have some familiarity with weekday afternoon games like the one coming up this Monday vs. Carolina:
It should be. It is not an ideal circumstance, but the fact that it is a day off and then right into the game, that is something. Of course, with the back-to-back here, we need to get the guys away from the arena tomorrow. We will come back in and get right to it. That is the beauty of these afternoon games. You just kind of wake up and get a meal and get to the rink and play the game. The nice thing of it is all is that when the game is over, you’ve still got time to do your thing. It is a good chance for some guys to scatter from there, too.