Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night, dropping the Leafs’ record to 31-22-8 on the season.
On back-to-back flat efforts:
It looks like the process we want to go through is just to get embarrassed to the point where we just really look in the mirror and recognize what is required to compete at a high level at this stage of the season.
On his level of bewilderment with the state of things right now:
It is a different issue again today. We’ve talked about that — it’s been a little bit different each night. If you had special teams on your bingo card of things that are hurting our group, you are happy today to get that one filled.
Ultimately, as we look at the different things — whether it is giving up leads in the third period a couple of weeks ago, or getting scored on early on home ice, or today with special teams and what have you — the common denominator is just the overall urgency and competitiveness of the group.
The special teams were an issue today, and we get a power play early in the game with a chance to take a hold of the game against a very good team, and we are just not there. They were competing at a high level than we were. They get their chance and they just make it pretty clear what the difference is.
On the narrative that the team leans on its talent and not enough on effort:
It is an easy narrative to latch onto. I don’t think we were reliant on our skill or our work ethic at all today. But it’s not just today. It is not everyone, either. Some guys are there consistently, but you see the difference between a team that is good some days and not so good others and a team that is good all the time no matter who is the lineup. You see that in the game tonight. That is the difference between then and us: They just work. When you do that, the skilled players have the puck a lot more and good things are happening and all of that kind of stuff. We have to make a decision here about what we want to be as a team. We are going to run out of games.
On how the team can find the urgency level it needs:
It is a good question. There is a decision to be made. Obviously, I have a role to play in it in terms of demanding it from the group and in terms of accountability among the group — all of those kinds of things. I think what has happened here is that — as the injuries have piled up, as the schedule has gotten harder, and the league has gotten harder in terms of the time of the year and how desperate and urgent things — more and more issues are coming up with our group in terms of our habits and details that are lacking. That is where the team really has to grow. The skill is there, but the other part of it has to be there. Without that foundation, you don’t have a chance.
On whether he addressed the team after the game:
I addressed the team after the first period and I think I fired all the bullets that I had. From there, the team has to make the decision. Especially with the way the second period went, hearing from me, at that point, I don’t they are going to be taking in much.
We do have a chance to regroup tomorrow and we have the same team that is going to be coming into our building. It is a chance for us to show that we don’t like what has happened here today. We had perhaps the built-in excuse of the back-to-back the other night, but there is no excuse here tonight whatsoever.
We just weren’t there. We weren’t playing at the acceptable level, but we have a chance to regroup tomorrow and we have a chance to really show what our character is all about on home ice against this very same team. I look forward to that opportunity to work with the team tomorrow and prepare them for that.
On whether this was a case of an experienced vs. an inexperienced team:
You do see the difference on the other side. You’ve got a team over there that has built a championship culture and an environment of what is acceptable. We’re not there. I think that is something in terms of the inexperience, but we also have some very experienced player that should be more than capable of leading the way and helping us out in that regard. It is just showing that we’ve got a lot of work to do.
The good news is that we are still very much in this fight. We have opportunities to turn it around. The competition is going to continue to be strong here for us for most of the rest of the way. We are going to be challenged greatly. I look forward to the opportunity to get to work again tomorrow and get our team up to the task.
On how seriously he considered a goalie change:
I didn’t think about it. I didn’t think there was a lot Fred could do on the goals on the power play and special teams. At the same time, Fred is part of our team and he is a guy that needs to be better. I thought their goaltender was better than ours today. He has been an elite goalie all season long for them and kind of the backbone of their group. We need Fred to be that for us as well, but I don’t put this on him tonight at all.
On whether he has decided on who will start on Thursday:
We are going to talk about that.