Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 3-0 win over the New York Islanders, improving the Leafs’ record to 24-14-5 on the season.
On the team’s patience against a stingy Islanders team:
I just liked how we were able to stay with it. It is a different type of game than we’ve played. We just stayed with it. We waited to get our chances. When we did, we made good on a couple of them. We had a combination of great goaltending, good defensive play, a little bit of luck, and opportunistic players that make good on their chances.
On what the win means in a game where goals were hard to come by:
I think it is really good. I think it is really healthy for the team in a lot of ways. Like I said, it was a different type of game. Offense is harder to come by, as we expected it would coming into the game. I just like that our guys didn’t get frustrated coming out of that first period with not a lot going on. We stayed with it. We gave up some chances and got saves, which was good, but when we got our chances, we made good on them.
It would’ve been nice to get the goal on the breakaway early in the game — it might’ve been a different game if that’s the case. We didn’t and it wasn’t, so we just had to stay patient. I liked it. You’ve got to find a way to win the boring games, too, sometimes.
On winning 15 games in his first 20 as head coach:
Every day brings a new challenge. I’ve said it before and I still believe in it: We are still not close to where I think we can get to. We’ve got a lot of room to grow as a team. That is exciting, but that is what keeps us working. When I’ve been a coach at various levels, I’ve had a lot of experience coaching teams that go on stretches and runs like this. You recognize that you’re not going to be satisfied and you’ve got to continue to work and continue to get better and find the things you can improve upon. That is what we come to work every day to do.
On where the team needs to grow:
In all areas, really. Our play in terms of our ability to come out of our end, I think, can improve. I think being good and diligent in games like this today is another area. It is a low-event game and not much is happening. You can still defend well enough to give ourselves enough time to wait for our chance to come. Special teams and all of those types of things can go a long way.
That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of positives because there certainly is. We’ve been doing a lot of really good things and have been resilient as a group even though we’ve lost players to injury. We created a little more adversity for our group today going into it with giving Freddy the day off and Hutch going in. That raises the awareness of the team a little bit and creates an extra challenge there just in terms of not having Freddy, who has been so great for us. Hutch has been trying to find his way and clearly he did today.
On how the team has been able to get Michael Hutchinson back in a positive headspace:
I don’t think I’ve had much to do with it, to be honest. Obviously, there is a good feeling around our team and we’ve been winning a lot. The confidence of the team is high. Steve Briere works with our goalies and does a great job. He believes in Hutch and believes in the work that he’s done. I would say that my observations have been that he is in a good space, both mentally and also just watching him perform in practice and compete in practice. Those are the types of things that give you a little extra confidence to play him today.
Part of the reason we played him today is that we need to get Freddy some rest. Part of it is that we feel good and confident about Hutch and you want to give him a chance to go out and win a game that maybe not many people would give him much of a chance or think that he would. If we are going to gain some traction with our backup goaltender, we’ve got to give them opportunities to play in scenarios where it is not a back-to-back. It is a game here — high pressure, Saturday night against a good team — and obviously he responded very well.
On what he likes about Engvall’s game dating back to his days with the Marlies:
He’s a really big guy. Very strong. Skates and moves very well. He has a good skill set. There is so much to work with there. You know enough about him before he even arrives to the Marlies — various camps and reports and things that you get when he is playing over in Sweden. When a guy with that physical package arrives, you’re pretty excited and you want to make him important. I think the experience of playing in the Calder Cup for him really gave him a great sense of how he can use his skill set to be very hard to play against for other team’s best players. There is a foundation where his skill and his offense can come out.
When he arrived [with the Marlies, we put him on a line with Frederik Gauthier and Colin Greening. That was a pretty miserable line for the opposition to play against. I think he learned that that is part of the game as well and an important part of the game, and that that foundation can take him places. That was sort of what we tried to instil with him with the Marlies. It wasn’t always smooth, frankly, because he has always been an offensive guy and a power play guy and all of those types of things, but we asked him to be patient and believe in the process we had in place for him. He put in all the work and he is benefitting from it now. So are we.