Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 1-0 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night, dropping the Leafs’ record to 35-24-9 on the season.
On the team’s performance:
I thought it was a pretty even game all the way through. I thought their team did a good job in the game. Especially as we got through that first period, it was a bit of a feeling out process just with the way that they play. They really clog the neutral zone. They defend really well. As we fought our way through that and adjusted in the second and third, I thought we did a really good job.
This was a game that really could’ve gone either way. We were happy to get one point. We could’ve had two, of course, in overtime or shootout, but it didn’t go our way in that sense. Not a lot to complain about for us in the game.
On how the team managed the frustration offensively:
I thought they dealt with it pretty well. I think we were 0-for-3 on the breakaways. You could see there was a little frustration setting in. But in terms of the way the game was going, I thought we managed it okay. At times, I thought we turned it over a little bit through the neutral zone, but that is the number one team in the NHL at holding its blue line. They are going to make it hard on you and you know that going into the game. They did that at times, but I thought we stayed with it.
Fred in net was outstanding for us. We just couldn’t find a way to get one in. Today is a night where we need our power play to be the difference. If there is an area we would certainly want to be better in, that would be it.
On whether it was a step forward after the San Jose loss:
I thought so. It wasn’t our greatest game or our greatest effort or anything like that, but there is another team on the other side that did a good job as well. The Kopitar line and Doughty and Hutton did a really good job against Auston and their group. It really felt to me that the Tavares line was going to be the difference-maker.
I thought that was the best game John has played in a while. Willy played really well. We made the change to put Malgin on that line and they really started to go. I thought they would end up being the difference for us. I thought they really changed the game for us in the second period and really got things going for us because they didn’t have much of an answer for them, but they just couldn’t get one to go over the line.
On the two goals in the last two games:
Power play is the first thing. The power play has got to be lethal for us with the type of talent we have. It should be and it has been for quite some time, but it has gone dry a little bit here. We’ve got to have that be a difference maker for us that we know it can be. That is the first thing. And then we’ve got to establish play in the offensive zone and get more stuff toward the net.
With our defense, missing the defense that we are, a lot of the emphasis is on how it affects you defensively, but it affects you offensively, too. A lot of things are happening differently for us at the offensive blue line than when we are healthy. That is stalling us a little bit offensively, I believe.
Defensively, it seems like we have done a pretty good job as a group there. It is kind of ying and yang with the offense and defense. Certainly, we’ve got to find a way to generate more.
On the penalty kill:
The PK was really good. How about that effort by Hyms in overtime? If that one ends up going in the net, it’s one for the ages. Just that effort was incredible. Our PK gave us a chance there to come back and get some opportunities to score coming out of the kill and obviously in overtime, it gave us a chance to get to the shootout. It wasn’t our night in that sense, but a lot of good things for us here today. We have a chance tomorrow to get two points going home and at the very least, leave here with three.
On Nylander’s performance:
I just saw the way that he commanded the puck and the way he skated through the neutral zone against a team that makes it really hard to get through the neutral zone. When he had it, he seemed to pick them apart. In the offensive zone, he was on the puck. He was cutting back and attacking the net. It seemed like he had a guy on his back for a lot of the game and it didn’t faze him. He got opportunities and they didn’t go in for him today, but I really liked how he worked.