Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-2 win against the Ottawa Senators, improving the Leafs’ record to 31-20-8 on the season.
On the overall effort:
I thought our team played a good hockey game. I thought we had a really good second period. They pulled the goaltender and it changes momentum a little bit. I didn’t like how we responded to that in the final segment of the second period. I liked a lot of our third period — we had three of our four best chances in the game and could have really blown things open. Their goalie made a bunch of saves and let them hang around and made it interesting. Luckily, we got the bounce to go our way on the empty net — I thought we earned that bounce with our play in the third.
On his NHL game in Ottawa, an arena he watched a lot of games early in his coaching career:
Well, it was special for me. Nothing to do with the game or anything like that, but just a chance to see many of the people that were important in supporting me and my family through our time in Penbroke with the Lumber Kings. The chance to thank them in person was important to me. Anytime that I think about the chance to coach in the NHL, right away we think of ‘how can I thank those people?’.
On how he’s evolved as an NHL coach:
I’ve grown as I’ve learned about the league and the schedule and just how quickly you have to reset for the next day. Also, just how important framing each win or loss is for the team because you’ve got to manage the emotions when you don’t have time to let things fester. That would be the biggest thing and the biggest adjustment coming from the American League.
On advice to players about having a good support network:
I’ve got a large group of people that believe in me and support me and give me a chance to prove them right in their support. That’s something I’d like to instill into the players: Don’t focus on proving anybody wrong or anything like that. Just focus on proving the people that believe in you right.
On the importance of the two points:
Well, I’m not keeping track of where our points are at, but I just know we need to collect as many as we can and do it as frequently as we can. We took care of what we needed to do today. We’ve got a chance now to do it again tomorrow, but we’re going to have to regroup quickly.
On Nylander moving back to the Tavares line:
Those guys have got good chemistry. John, no matter who he’s playing with, has been consistent. Last week, Willy wasn’t playing at all and it didn’t faze John at all. Those guys are going well when we’ve had them there, as has Kerfoot as well — he’s brought a lot to that line with his skating and how hard he works. It allows us to put Hyman back with Auston and Mitch. I liked the way those lines looked today.
On canceling team skates at times this week:
The schedule is demanding right now with what we’ve been through. We’d love to get on the ice every day and practice something, but we really have to manage the workload here of our group of guys, especially this time of year with the bumps and bruises that we have. There are guys dealing with illnesses that are playing through that. We’re kind of unsure when the next guy might get sick, so we’ve got to be able to manage that. Taking team practices off this week was important to us — not so much even for today, but just that we’re playing tomorrow and we’re going to play on the road again on Tuesday. It’s going to come at us quickly, as it already has this month.
On if the team will call up a forward tomorrow:
I haven’t talked to Kyle at all about that. We’re playing here with twelve forwards. Some guys are banged up and have illnesses and stuff like that. I’m not sure where everyone is at right now.
On his impression of Liljegren’s first five NHL games:
I see a guy who’s playing with lots of confidence. With each game, Dave Hakstol is getting more comfortable with putting him on the ice. In the third period there, we’re killing a penalty and the game is on the line, at one point we had Sandin and Liljegren out there killing that penalty in a one-goal hockey game. That’s a very good sign for both those guys.