Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 5-4 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday night, dropping the Leafs’ record to 21-15-5 on the season.
On the team’s performance in a back-to-back:
Today is even more challenging, obviously, with the back-to-back. We have leaned very heavily on our top guys. On the back-to-back, to do it two days in a row like this coming out of the break, it’s a little bit tougher. But you’re obviously very happy that we were able to do that. That’s a big point for us coming from behind like that.
On how he judges fatigue in his top guys:
In-game like that, I am more just going off their body language. Over time, you get pretty comfortable with how they look on the bench and when they are ready for their next shift.
Maybe some of it was just in my own head just with the back-to-back and everything. I kind of lost our fourth line there in the second period and we weren’t getting any extra shifts from them. The Rangers weren’t using their fourth line very much, either, so that made it a little bit tougher. Plus, we are playing from behind, so you lean on those guys. We felt it was important to get more shifts from our depth guys in the third period and I thought it helped us get a little extra rest and a little extra push there.
Playing from behind is tough. We haven’t done that very much as a team here of late, but we’ve had to here now three games in a row. That is not a good recipe for us. It’s not a good recipe for anybody.
Then you get a chance to talk about resiliency and to be resilient. We were able to do that today. Obviously, we would like to flip this trend here and get back to playing with the lead.
On how the blue line fared without Jake Muzzin:
I thought it was fine. We miss Muzz greatly, don’t get me wrong — more than just what he brings on the ice for us, there are a lot of intangibles that he brings to the locker room and to the bench. Talking between the whistles and all of those types of things — his presence means a lot to our team. We missed him greatly. But I thought Marincin did well. He filled in well. I don’t think any of the issues that we had in the game today were the result of that.
On whether he was concerned when Mitch Marner took a puck high to the face:
Of course. Those are dangerous plays. Any time the puck goes high on anybody like that, it is tough. Luckily, we were able to get him stitched up and sent back out. It was touch and go there for a bit. They weren’t sure if he was going to come back. But he not only came back, he pretty much sprinted onto the bench and said he was ready to go. We put him back out there right away and he was excellent when he came back.
On Pierre Engvall’s ability at center:
I am very comfortable with Pierre at center. I have been over my time with the Marlies. We converted him — I’m not exactly sure when it was — in January or February of last year. We put him there for the first time. He did an excellent job for us there all the way through the playoffs. He has only played center with the Marlies this season. I don’t think he played even one shift of wing before coming here. We’ve used him there as a center.
I am comfortable with him. I obviously changed it pretty quickly there because I didn’t like how that line was going early. It didn’t go the way I thought it would. I thought I just had to kind of change that chemistry. They were minus-two early, so I had to change it up. It has nothing to do with how I feel about Pierre’s ability to play center. I think he is good there.
On whether he is satisfied with the team’s progress through 17 games:
Satisfied is not a good word and not one I would spend much time thinking about or using. If I just focus on today, this is a big point for us. All of the circumstances considered, we fight our way back and it’s a really good, healthy sign for the spirit of our team. That is an important factor. As I said, we want to be a team that plays with the lead, though. I don’t want to look too far back or too far ahead. I’ll just focus on today. I like that we were able to get a point here. I don’t like that we spotted them the leads the way we did.