Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on New Year’s Eve, improving the Leafs’ record to 22-14-5 on the season at the halfway point.
On the team’s ability to defend the lead tonight:
I thought it was good. Efficient is a good word to describe it. We didn’t give up a lot defensively, for sure. We didn’t give up a lot of shots or chances, especially in that third period when we expected them to push. I thought we took care of it pretty well there.
On the fit between William Nylander and John Tavares and how it compares to Matthews-Marner:
There are different dynamics at play there. I’ve liked it so far. The chemistry has been good. The nice thing that has come out of the fact that we’ve moved things around here since I’ve been here is that it is giving me a pretty good taste of what different things look like. You never know what the season is going to bring and what each game is going to bring. It gives me a different feel for different things. Obviously, we’ve used a number of different combinations so far and we like this one. We like a lot of others that have worked, too.
On giving himself those options for later in the season:
That’s really it — to look at different things. Some things, to be honest… this one here sort of happened here organically. I had it in the back of my mind just to see what Auston and Mitch and John and Willy would look like. But it happened organically just in a game and it clicked. We just stayed with it. We’ll probably stick with it for a bit.
On the players that left the game temporarily with injuries tonight:
As far as I know, everything went okay there. Pierre was the one that was most concerning, but he came back and seemed to be fine.
On the challenge coming up against Winnipeg:
Different challenge. Different opponent. I haven’t focused much on Winnipeg, to be honest. Other staff has. We will turn the page here today and move on to that. In terms of our play, I thought we had the puck a lot today. I don’t think we always made the best play all the time through the neutral zone. That slowed us down a little bit. But we continued to get the puck back.
We thought what would happen in the game today is that they would be forechecking us really hard and they would shoot the puck a lot. That didn’t seem to happen a whole lot today. Just the way we seemed to retain the puck took the wind out of their sails for what is the strength of their team. We hope that that can continue.
On the team’s ability to handle adversity since he took over the team:
I think it has been good. I think we’ve handled all sorts of situations, right? We are gaining experience from that, whether it is playing with the lead early and giving it up and having to find our way back, or falling behind and finding our way back, or having a lead and then giving up goals in bunches and figuring that out. A lot has happened in the short amount of time that I’ve been here. I think all of that will serve us well.
On using his timeout after the 3-1 goal:
I think there is just a lot of different things happening with this group. I am using them a little bit more. I just thought that the game turned quickly there for us and I wanted to make sure it didn’t get out of hand.
On whether the team is responding to the increased use of timeouts:
I haven’t had a lot of feedback on that. I haven’t asked them much about it, to be honest. It is a pretty good recommendation from you, maybe, to get that. I just think it makes sense. I thought the emotion and the energy in the building changed dramatically. I just thought a timeout would help us to settle that down. I am not so sure it worked, necessarily, because they kept pushing for a bit there. But the intent makes a lot of sense in those circumstances.
On William Nylander’s forecheck to start the sequence leading to the Alex Kerfoot goal:
He was on the puck there and he got it back. He did that well today on a number of occasions. I think that is an underrated skill of his in terms of his ability to get pucks back. He has a very strong stick. He is smart in terms of how he attacks the stick and attacks the puck to get it back and keep the team on offense. We’ve got some other guys who are really good at that. That was on display there. John — just the same. He got the puck back and was able to make a play and get a great shot.