Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night, improving the Leafs’ record to 33-23-8 on the season.
On the team’s performance:
We got scored on first and we didn’t let it snowball. I thought we just gathered ourselves. I made a couple of little tactic adjustments that the guys caught onto quickly and I thought turned the game for us in the first period there. We got ourselves a lead, and then gave it up, but then we came back and built an even bigger lead. Just a lot of really good things.
In the third period, you know they are going to have a really strong push and it is important for us not to crack. They get the one and we just stayed with it. We were shorthanded on the backend. Those guys battled really hard. A lot of really positive things for us and a good feeling post game.
On whether he sees this as a growth opportunity:
I certainly do. We talked about it. It’s that feeling. It’s going through it. It’s finding a way. It’s losing your leader on the backend in Jake Muzzin and just finding a way to get it done and not cracking. I thought we did a good job.
They had a push. They threw a lot of pucks at our net in that third period. I think if you were to go through it, you could see there wasn’t a whole lot of quality in terms of scoring chances or anything like that. The guys did a nice job of protecting the night and Fred made the solid saves and didn’t let anything get out of hand for us there.
There were a lot of really good things — penalty kill, power play. A lot of really good stuff.
On Jake Muzzin’s status after leaving the game with a hand injury:
I don’t know. We’re going to have to see how it is here tomorrow and kind of go from there. Obviously, he wasn’t well enough to return. We are going to have to give him the night and we’ll know more information tomorrow.
On the Sandin – Liljegren pairing having to play more with Muzzin out:
It is a tough game for those young guys even before Muzz left. Just with the matchups and the depth that they have, you try to manage that. You saw on the first goal, they got caught on the ice and it ends up in our net against their best players. But I thought those guys got better as the game wore on the more comfortable that they got. By the third period, you have to play them. You have to get them out there. In some cases, that is the best way. Don’t think about it; just get over the boards and play.
On how valuable this experience will be for Sandin and Liljegren playing in important games down the stretch:
We think it will be very important. Those guys — talking about Sandin and Liljegren — are really important for the future of this team. Getting them experience at this time in the year, while we would, of course, like to have a healthy Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci, those guys need to get acclimated to this league. They need to take another step in their development. They’ve been able to do that while giving us good minutes.
On the penalty kill tonight:
We just jumped on loose pucks well really well. We maybe caught them cheating just a little bit and not respecting the fact that we could jump the way we did. We got in behind them. It happens every now and again to a power play. It happens to us just the same. We had some great chances there. We didn’t score on those chances, but we didn’t crack on the other side of it and didn’t give anything up.
On William Nylander’s finish on the power play:
That is a big-time goal and a big-time finish. He has got those hands around the net. It was nice to see that finish. More important than that, I thought especially through the second period, there were some terrific examples — on Tavares’ goal, the 3-2 goal, Willy just really works and wins a battle for us. I just thought he really worked in this game today and won a lot of loose pucks for us. It was well deserved for him to get the game ball.
On Kasperi Kapanen’s performance lately:
That’s three in a row now where he has really moved his feet and has been really competitive. He is making a real difference on our team in terms of our depth. We need more of that from both he and Will. But it was good team effort today with good shifts from all four lines. All six defensemen contributed greatly for us. It was a real good win in a tough building against a very good hockey club. We want to enjoy the feeling and build upon it, not lose it.