Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars on Thursday night, dropping the Leafs’ record to 30-20-8 on the season.
On the team playing from behind the whole night:
I think when you are playing against a team that you know is going to make it difficult on you defensively, you can’t spot them a lead. It is just going to get even harder. It is a real tough team to play against when you are chasing the game. It was the opposite down in Dallas where we played with the lead virtually the whole game all the way through. They had to open it up so we had lots of chances and lots of good things happening for us. It was a much different hockey game. We spotted them the lead here, and really at the start of every period, we spot them goals like that. It is going to make it real tough.
On the four penalties:
The Marner call, I think, if we were going to go back and pull the video, you could probably make that call 30 times in the game both ways. For some reason, that one was selected. I thought we could’ve been on the power play more than we were, but that is not the difference in the game, really.
On Andreas Johnsson’s injury:
It is a knee injury that’s not going to be short term.
On whether there was a focus issue at the start of the periods:
I think it is just kind of the way the game went. I thought that we started the game pretty well in terms of our ability to have the puck and be in control. We were a little bit casual on the one. They get a stick on it, they get in behind us, and it’s in the net. Is it a focus thing? An execution thing? We’ve got to be a lot sharper. We had all the numbers and were in full control there. We just didn’t take care of it.
On Muzzin suggesting there was a disconnect between forwards and defense on whether to go fast or build up the ice:
Part of it is a symptom of what is happening in the game. You give a team like them a lead, and after that point, they are really not trying to score much. They are going to be in their structure the entire time. When that is the case, it is a real balance. At times, you want to go real fast, but you’re going real fast into a wall. You want to make sure you are organized, but then you get impatient.
To me, it just a symptom of the way the game goes. With how we are trying to play as a team, that is going to be an issue for us at times. It is even harder when a team is just going to sit back and play in their structure the way that they did.
On whether the team will run into that style of play a lot down the stretch and into the playoffs:
I think it would depend on who we play. It is not the kind of thing that you just flip a switch and do it overnight. That team has been committed all season. They’re doing that as good or better than anybody in the league. Like I said, it is a much different hockey game down in Dallas, where we get the lead and the game is way different. You spot them a lead here and they’re on the road, it makes for a hard game.
That said, obviously, I thought once Clifford got his fight, the emotion and the energy level of the game changed significantly. The players responded very well, and then we started to come. But that didn’t last long enough for us. We didn’t get the even-strength goal to build on the power-play goal that we got.
We were coming in and trying to get a push in the third, and now you are shorthanded before you know it. You win a faceoff, don’t get an exit, and it’s in your net. As I said, you can’t spot a team like that goals.
On the team’s ability to adapt to a team playing a defensive game as the Stars were:
You do have to adapt, for sure. I didn’t think we did a good job of that through the game. Like I said, they make it really challenging. It is something where you can get a little bit frustrated at times, but does it help our cause? You try to get regrouped coming out of the first period, and before you know it, you’re down again.
I think if we were a little sharper here or there, or get a save on one of those goals, the game changes dramatically. It didn’t go our way here today. Offensively, we haven’t been good here for quite some time. It seems like the better we’ve played defensively, we’ve gotten worse offensively. We haven’t struck that balance that we want to have in terms of the offensive we’ve been able to generate over time with being better defensively.
Again, they are not really pushing the envelope, but I thought we did a pretty good job today not giving up much at all. The ones that we did, of course, they get in behind us with #34 and #24. We watched it in the prescout, and they are giving teams a real hard time in terms of their speed and how they get behind you. We talked a lot about that, and that was an issue today. Other than that, I didn’t think we gave up much for the most part for the whole game. When you are chasing the game and you are trailing, we need to find ways to generate more offense and we weren’t able to do it.
On whether he will go back to the Marner – Matthews – Nylander line again at some point after moving away from it during the game:
Yeah, I could see it. Our lineup and our look changes a lot here in terms of the top nine with Johnsson being out, both in the game and how things are going. I thought that line — those three guys — in the first period, I think the shot attempts were 14-3 for us, or something like that. They were fully in control of the game when they were out there, but nothing was happening toward the net. Also, the other lines just weren’t having success. We lost Andreas Johnsson and had to mix it up a little bit.
On how Frederik Andersen played in his first game back:
I thought we made it really challenging for him. He hasn’t played. On the first shot of the game, the guy is coming in alone from the top of the circles in. We didn’t help him in that regard. We probably didn’t help him in the sense that we didn’t give up much else. We didn’t give him a chance to get comfortable in the game. There are no easy shots coming at him. It was probably a bit of a tougher game for him in that sense.
We’ve got to do a better job for him in terms of getting him goals, getting him help, and giving him support. As a team here, we’ve got to regroup. We are going to stay away from the arena again tomorrow. As you see, we are losing guys and we’ve still got a number of guys battling illnesses and pushing through it. We’ve got a lot of hockey coming up here, so we are going to stay away tomorrow, get ourselves up to Ottawa, and get ready for a big weekend.