Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 5-3 win over the Dallas Stars, improving the Leafs’ record to 27-17-7 on the season.
On the team’s resiliency in the third:
I thought we had a real good period there. Good process. Obviously, we wouldn’t have liked to give them a goal back like we did, but I thought we started really well. We generated a number of really good scoring chances ourselves. We could’ve had even more goals, especially early there. I just liked how we battled. Getting wins like this on the road — a late penalty kill, the goalie is out for a long period of time there — those are tough sequences. You are relying on a small number of guys to get that done. The guys just found a way.
On whether the more practice you get closing out games makes you better at it:
I think that is part of it. We’d rather not be in that position. We had a two-goal lead. That’s where you would rather be. You score the first goal in the third period and it puts you in an even better spot. Certainly, if you give it back, you’ve got to just battle and find a way and limit what you give up on the inside and know they are going to have a push, but try keep the stuff to the outside so that we can block or Freddy can see. I thought we did a pretty good job of that.
On Auston Matthews’ incredible run of 20 goals in 21 games:
I don’t need to tell you guys that Auston is a very talented player. He puts himself in good spots. Obviously, today, Mitch gave him the puck in a great spot and it was a world-class finish. We’ve become accustomed to seeing that. That is what he is capable of doing. When is really playing and he is really skating and is engaged in the game, it is hard to stop.
On how the team stayed patient and generated offense:
Especially at the start of the game, we played a patient game. We were in control of the game. I thought at times we failed to get really in behind their defense and establish our game in the offensive zone. That is a real strength of their team in terms of their ability to stop you there. Through the first period in the second half, I thought we started to break that down and got more opportunities that way. We were patient enough to find a way to get a lead.
Of course, we gave it back there because we had a couple of bad sequences late in the first, but I thought we just stayed with it all throughout the game and were patient to wait for our opportunities and for the game to open up. We played with the lead throughout the game, and that really helps.
On the team’s run of eight-straight four-plus goal games on the road:
It speaks to our ability to score goals and finish. That is the strength of our team. That is the foundation. The record itself is pretty insignificant and not anything we are too focused on, but it does speak to us putting ourselves in positions to win games on the road. Of course, we’d like to bring that home.
On Nylander’s goal starting with his work over 200 feet:
He worked his way up the ice. I thought there was some pretty good playmaking before the puck ultimately ends up on his stick. Zach Hyman today was just working. We’ve come to expect that from him, but when the game was on the line, he was battling and pressuring the puck and creating turnovers and creating away any time they had to create anything offensively. He was a workhorse today and I am happy to see him be rewarded.
On what he’s learned about Mitch Marner after a chance to coach him for an extended period:
I know he likes to play a lot. He is a guy that is always looking at you and wants to be out there and expects to be out there. You like that about him. He wants to be in the moment and wants to be a difference-maker. Like Auston, we all know what he is capable of and what his abilities are. The nice thing about him is the offensive instincts that he has really translate to his defensive game as well — to read plays, close space, get a stick on pucks, and create turnovers. He is very good at that.
On Cody Ceci’s ability to block shots and defend late in games:
No doubt. There are a couple of games that stand out. Today is one. There was one down in Colorado earlier in my tenure here with the game on the line, the goalie is out, late penalty kill — all of that kind of stuff. He really competes. He is very strong around the net and below the goal line. He battles and comes up with those loose pucks which are so important when the game is on the line. He is very good at that and I think his teammates recognize it. That’s why he got the game ball tonight.
On why the team is staying over in Dallas tonight:
With the time change and the late travel, we’re just trying to keep our guys on a more regular sleep schedule here. The games are coming at us quickly. We do have an off-day tomorrow, so it is a good chance for us to take advantage of that and keep the guys on a normal sleep routine.