Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 6-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night, improving the Leafs’ record to 23-14-5 on the season.
On the team bending but not breaking defensively:
I think that was part of it. Obviously, it wasn’t a good second period at all. The back half of the first period wasn’t very good, either. We were very opportunistic here. It started with a great start. We got up 2-0 and it could have been four or five with a little more luck around the net. They had their push. We didn’t seem to have very good legs in that second period at all, but we took advantage of the chances we got there to give ourselves a lead. Our third period was our best period. We had to take care of our lead and I thought we did a very good job.
On another multi-point game for William Nylander:
He just looks really confident. He’s feeling it. His linemates have been very good around him. He has been making plays to them and they have been making plays to him. He is putting himself in good spots. He is feeling it and he is making good on his chances. It has been fun to watch him here.
On whether Nylander ever lacks for confidence:
Not in himself, but it is one thing to have confidence in yourself off the ice and you’re feeling good off the ice. The game starts and then it is just not really happening for you. You aren’t really overly involved in the game. That in itself can make you lose confidence.
He just hasn’t had any lulls in his game. I think that has been the nicest thing to see — he has been on it every shift. It is not just the offensive pieces; it is winning puck battles and coming up with loose pucks all over the ice and keeping himself on offense and putting his linemates in good spots.
Obviously, the chemistry with he and John and has been very good as well. Kerfoot also has played outstanding, too.
On what happened with the team’s letoff in the second period:
I don’t know what to say about it. It just looked like we didn’t have any legs. It looked like maybe New Year’s got the best of us. But then we got a push. I thought Travis Dermott made a game-changing play for us coming through the neutral zone. That got us going again and we got out of that second period.
I just talked to our guys after the second and said, “We are in a really good spot here. Let’s clean ourselves off and go out here and take care of this third period.” I thought we did that. All four lines and all six D contributed. Freddy was solid in net in that third. We get out of here with another two points.
On why he thinks it is important to give Brooks the first shift in his hometown game and other similar gestures:
I just think that as a coach and a leader, you’ve got an opportunity to create some memorable moments for individuals. I think that’s important. We are never going to put our team in a tough spot or compromise our ability to win a game, but I think there are little things we can do as leaders and as coaches to put people in spots to succeed, to put players in spots that they and their families will remember. The hope is those types of things just kind of fuel our team to give a little more when times are tough and maybe get a little more luck to fall our way in tough times such as today.
On Travis Dermott stepping up tonight and his play of late:
That is what we are looking for — for guys to take steps here. We’ve seen it with Justin. Dermott has played some really good hockey at different times over his time in the NHL. This season has been more difficult for him with the surgery and the long summer and missing training camp and all of that. We are looking for him to find his game and take steps.
We seem to be moving in that direction for all our young guys like himself, like Pierre Engvall and Adam Brooks, and Timashov and Gauthier, and getting a guy like Mason Marchment involved. We are trying to give some exposure to our young people to see what kind of depth we really do have there.
Dermott has moved beyond a depth player and is a guy who can make a difference for us and continue to take positive steps that way.