Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 3-2 overtime win over the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night, improving the Leafs’ record to 30-19-8 on the season.
ICYMI – Game review courtesy of Anthony Petrielli:
Nobody is going to call this one a work of art, but we are at the point where the win is what matters.
Despite trailing twice, the Leafs pulled out a much needed two points vs. Arizona.
10pts on: starting D pairs, stacking lines, Matthews one-timer + morehttps://t.co/JuizdypIWx
— Maple Leafs Hotstove (@LeafsNews) February 12, 2020
On Jack Campbell’s third start for the team (2-0-1):
I see that he battles. He is a confident guy. He battles and manages to keep the puck out. He kept them at two here tonight and gave us a chance to win a hockey game. He did his job in Montreal just the same. That is what you need to get from a guy like him in this situation. It has worked out really well. We’ve been able to get him three starts coming in here, so he’s been able to get comfortable and find his footing and find his place on the team. Obviously, he has responded very well.
On the decision to put Nylander – Matthews – Marner together:
It was a combination of a little bit of curiosity of how that might play out and also I was happy with the line of Kerfoot – Tavares – Hyman. I thought the timing was right to try such a thing. In terms of how it went, I don’t think it went very well, but I also don’t know that it is fair to judge it on a night like this. Willy really wasn’t himself tonight. It is a tough night tonight to judge such a thing. The good news is that the Tavares line was good once again.
On why Nylander wasn’t himself tonight and whether that was to do with the illness he’s been battling:
I think he’s probably on his way over that, but he didn’t do anything for those four days. He didn’t do anything at all. Willy is a guy that loves to be on the ice and loves his routine and loves to touch the puck. I think it is going to take him a little bit to get back at it.
On what he thinks the potential of the line is on a better night:
I think it can be very creative and overwhelming in terms of their skill set. Also, one of the reasons we have been very confident to try it is the way that Auston and Mitch have been playing and the way they’ve been skating, tracking, and defending — all of those types of things. I am not overly concerned about anything defensively. It is more just offensively and making sure they don’t overdo it and they aren’t always constantly trying to find each other and are eventually going to attack the net.
I expected there to be a bit of a feeling-out process with that, but also, I didn’t think really any of the three were at their best today. It was tough to judge that. I don’t know if we’ll stick with it or not, but as I said, we had been curious about trying something like that and we felt the timing was right.
On whether he worries about balance when he loads a line like that:
I do. It’s something I am conscious of, but I’m also trying to find out if the offset is worth it. Can we have one line that is really dominant there? Also, as I said, I felt very comfortable with the Tavares line and they’ve been dominant in their own right. There is still pretty good balance there. We just kind of changed up the top six and the look of it.
Like I said, we tried different things throughout my time here and that was one thing we hadn’t tried yet. I just thought that Willy hadn’t played and was coming back in and the success of the Tavares line last week, I thought we would give it a go.
On Zach Hyman’s two-goal game (and 16 goals & 30 points in 38 games):
Hard to say in terms of him not having it before. In terms of what I know of him now, I think he just continues to be a workhorse and driver and is all around the net. He has also been making plays and playing with lots of confidence with the puck as well. He has been more than just a forechecker and a guy that stands at the net. He has been doing a lot of other things on the rush and putting himself in good spots. When you work the way that he does and you have the confidence that he does and as much as we are using him, he is going to find a way to make good things happen.
On the OT goal reversal for the Coyotes, whether he challenged it, and if he thought it would be reversed:
I didn’t challenge that. That is automatic from the NHL in that case just given that it is in overtime. In the last minute and overtime, the NHL handles that. We certainly would have if we needed to.
I don’t have a whole lot of experience in this area, but from what I saw — we have monitors on the bench — we did feel pretty confident. Jack Campbell felt pretty good confident. I don’t think he even left the net. When you look at it, it is as straightforward as it is going to get for these types of calls.
On Campbell’s ability to play the puck and how it helps the D:
Still trying to get a feel for that in terms of its impact, but I like his confidence to go out and get it. In one of the games — the Anaheim game — it got away from him a little bit there, but he has got some confidence to go out and move it, and I think that it is a positive thing for any team when a goalie can play it well. I know we’ve faced goalies who handle the puck well and can break a forecheck. It is challenging.
On Kyle Clifford’s acclimation to the new team:
I think his best game was his first game in terms of his energy and his presence and his impact on the game. He is playing a limited role. He is not playing special teams and he hasn’t played special teams throughout his career. That is continuing here. We’ve moved him between the third and fourth lines. He is still trying to find his way… It’s not so much him finding his way, we’re also trying to find our way with our fourth line.
We tried something different today bringing up Aberg and putting Engvall in the middle in that role. We’re trying to find a little bit of traction on that line. Clifford’s arrival, we think, is going to help us have a good line there. We just have to find the right mix. I don’t think we found it today, but I love everything that Clifford has brought to our team in terms of his energy, his presence, and his voice. There is going to be a good role there for him once we find the right people around him.