Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 5-3 win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night, improving the Leafs’ record to 34-23-8 on the season.
On the team’s performance coming back from 3-1 down:
Despite the score, we didn’t hate our start. We had good legs. We had the puck a fair bit. We had some stuff happening in their end. They got the lead on us, obviously, but I just liked how our team wasn’t fazed by it. They were just talking on the bench, “There is a lot of game left and we’ve got to stick with it.” We were confident we would get our chances throughout the game, and we did.
It started with the power play goal. I don’t think it registered as a power-play goal, but it is in my eyes. Kappy finished it. I lost track of how many games in a row now for Kappy, but he is playing on a different level for us right now and it is making a big difference.
On the team’s defensive performance:
In the early going, especially with the seventh defenseman, we were trying to find the right mix in terms of what the right mix is going to be and the flow. I think when you go with the seven defense like that, you just kind of let it evolve. You can’t make too much of a plan. You’ve just got to kind of see. I think it took a little bit of time for that to settle. That helped our team once we did kind of settle it down.
The big thing that I’ll take away from the game is how we didn’t fold. The last time we came in here, the game got away on us. Today, we didn’t let it happen.
On whether Kasperi Kapanen’s recent play is a response to the suspension from the team:
I don’t think so. It’s more just in response to him recognizing what is happening in the season and how important it is and how important the games are. I think he, like a lot of the guys on our team, haven’t been happy with his play or our play as a team. We’ve asked everybody just to give us a little bit more. He has given us lots.
On the Dermott – Holl pairing:
They did an excellent job. Today, they are matched up against the Barkov line. It is the entire group doing a job against them, but that line ends up off the scoresheet and -2 on the night. That was our greatest challenge going into the game — how we were going to manage players of that level with the defensemen we were missing.
Those guys did an excellent job. The whole team did. The Matthews line did too good of a job against them from their perspective, so they had to change the matchup and got away from it. They mixed it to get Matthews away from them. The other guys we were playing against them, whoever it was, went out and did the job. Collectively, we played well against those guys, I thought.
We got good shifts from Tyson Barrie. He battled hard and did a lot of good things for us today, as we need him to do.
On the decision to dress seven defensemen:
It was nothing to do with Malgin. It was more just a combination of things. There is the fact that we’ve got some uncertainty with the number of people that we were missing, and Calle Rosen coming here and trying to get reacclimatized to what is happening. It’s funny how it works. Part of why you play Marincin is because you’ve lost such a massive presence on the penalty kill in Muzzin. Marincin can help there, and then he is the one who takes the penalty. That’s how that works. It was a decision to give ourselves more options to see how things would go and how our young defense would handle a game here today. We wanted to have the ability to mix and match accordingly.
On how Frederik Andersen settled into the game after the Noel Acciari goal:
Another big moment for our team just not letting the game get away. I thought as a team, we rallied for Fred. We didn’t give up much after that. The second period, I thought, was a real good period for us. We just responded well throughout the game. It was a close game, obviously, right until the very end.
There was lots of emotion and energy in the building. The fans here today — you’re in south Florida, and the presence of our fans and the passion and the number of jerseys and noise in the building from people that are following the team down here it pretty special. I think those are the kinds of things that give you just a great confidence and boost in a game like this.
On sweeping through the Lightning and Panthers on the road trip:
Really important. We talked the last time we came down here to play the Panthers about the number of games we had remaining against the Panthers and the Lightning. A lot is going to happen in the state of Florida for us the remainder of the season. We didn’t take care of it the first time through. We got the results and some real good efforts from our guys this time around. We’ve got a lot of games remaining and we will be back to Florida to visit Tampa one more time. We’ve just got to continue to build on this.
On the way the team has responded after the debacle vs. Carolina:
Our team has responded the way we needed to. It was an embarrassing night for us on home ice. What we talked about is that we can’t control what happened there. It’s in the past. We just have to take care of what we can control, which is our effort and our preparation and our play out there. I think we definitely have responded. I am sure our fans are going to recognize that and be positive about it. You can just see the reaction from the people down here talking to a number people around the arena who are still behind us. I think we did our part here in terms of getting off the mat. We want to continue to build on it and we’re excited to get back home.
On Travis Dermott’s expanded opportunity with Jake Muzzin out, and how he’s responded:
When opportunities come such as this, it is a chance to seize it and thrive or have it defeat you. Not just for Dermott — that is for our entire team. You want to be able to thrive in different conditions as a group. This is a difficult time and you’re playing against a good team in an important game today. We needed guys to step up. For Travis, it’s two games in a row now when called upon for an even bigger role, and these are real positive steps for him.