Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after practice on Wednesday, discussing the team’s poor performance in San Jose, the decision around goalie starts for this week, and Kyle Clifford’s fit on the team so far.
With the second period as inspiration last night, what do you want to do differently to at least break down a forecheck and make your club more effective?
Keefe: I don’t think we’re going to focus too much on that one particular game — more so on the things that allowed us to have success last week. The recipe for us is right there in terms of our preparation and the urgency we need to have on every shift no matter who we are playing against. We showed it last week. Any time our backs are against the wall and we need to push back, our guys have responded very well to that. We need that to be the standard, though. That is what we are working toward.
Any decision on whether Frederik Andersen or Jack Campbell will start tomorrow?
Keefe: Fred will go tomorrow.
What went behind that decision?
Keefe: The biggest thought process for us is that we wanted to get Jack into two games this week. That is the first thing. That, to me, trumps anything in terms of him playing his former team or anything like that. Also, Fred is our starting goaltender. It makes sense for him. He didn’t play last night, but it is a full practice day today and he goes in and plays a game rather than him playing in a back-to-back. I think he deserves that. At this time of year, especially, we have to make the right decisions.
Are you getting Rasmus Sandin back in tomorrow?
Keefe: Yeah, we are going to get him right back into it. That was kind of our intention going into it — to give him the day and get him right back involved.
How do you think Mikheyev will look on the Tavares line? Are you going back to the same lines tomorrow night?
Keefe: We’ve been having those discussions. Part of why we put Mikheyev there is that we didn’t have any real solutions today. We didn’t want to waste our time debating that. With Mikheyev, we wanted to get him more game-like reps out of the practice and it is hard to do that when you are the extra forward. We knew we weren’t going to go long today, so we if we didn’t have him on a line, he wouldn’t have gotten much out of it.
In terms of what we are going to do in that spot tomorrow, we are going to continue to discuss that for the rest of the day and into tomorrow. We will make a decision on what it will look like from there.
In terms of the recipe and how this team has had the games it needs to have, is it comforting knowing that game still exists with this team — that a higher-end exists for when the playoffs come?
Keefe: Without a doubt, it gives us confidence for sure. Perhaps it could be a bit of a crutch for us to say, “Hey, once we get to the playoffs, we are going to be able to do that.” We are not in the playoffs yet. We have to earn our way there. We also want to make sure that — while we are focusing on making the playoffs and what is happening in the standings — we get our game to a level where that is just the standard and what we are capable of. We don’t want to be responding to anything that is happening. We want to be dictating it and we want to be confident when we come to the arena every day about what we are going to be and what we are going to bring that particular day.
We think we are going to get there. Yesterday, we obviously didn’t like what we saw. We are going to focus more on what we did last week and look to have a better response tomorrow.
On the ice and off, do you like the way Kyle Clifford has fit into the group here?
Keefe: He’s really been terrific — just his perspective that he has given the experiences that he has been through. It’s also been the type of personality that he has to be able to talk to anyone on the team. He is very welcoming and easygoing in that sense, but then he is a competitor and he brings it every single day in practice and in the gym. All of those types of things rub off on the rest of your team. It is nice to have him around. I think it was a very important addition to our team.
When it comes to games like last night, some might say it’s human nature — things were going well, you were on the road, and so on. When you are trying to establish a kind of baseline, how do you balance that perspective?
Keefe: I think it’s just a matter of looking at the big picture here in the last couple of months and what we have been like. We’ve had way too many of those nights like last night. We don’t want to just say, “Hey, we put together three pretty good games last week and it’s just a one off.” There have been other times where we have looked like that. One of the bigger issues is that when we have looked bad, we have been really bad. Last night, in the first eight or nine minutes, we are getting outshot 11-1 and outchanced significantly. That is unacceptable and we are capable of better than that.
We are not going to have great nights every night. We are not going to win every night. But we are capable of putting together a level of competitiveness and work ethic and structure every day to make sure it doesn’t go south to that degree.