After practice on Monday, Sheldon Keefe discussed the adjustments needed for Game 2 after a 2-0 loss in the best-of-five series opener versus Columbus.
Is there any further thought toward maybe loading the big line up like you did a few times in Game 1?
Keefe: We have talked about it at different times. It’s something I’ve looked at at different times throughout the game. Any time you do something like that, it has an impact on the rest of your lineup all the way through. Depth is important to us.
I’m considering all things, but I haven’t decided on anything firmly. We will look to see how the game goes tomorrow and make some decisions as we get moving.
What adjustments do you feel the group needs to make after having a day to digest and pore over some video?
Keefe: We are just kind of looking for different ways we can utilize our offensive-zone time. We actually ended up getting more time in the offensive zone than I thought that we might. I thought it would be a little bit harder to get through the neutral zone, but we did a pretty good job of spending time in their end.
Of course, they did a really good job of keeping us away from their net. That is a big challenge for us — one that we knew we were going to have to face. It is one thing to watch it on video and prepare for it. It is a whole other thing to be in the fight. We have a one-game feel for it and we expect ourselves to be better tomorrow.
Were you gaining the offensive-zone blue line with possession as much as you would like?
Keefe: No, we weren’t gaining the blue line as much as I’d necessarily like, but I knew that was going to be a challenge for us. I thought we forechecked very well, actually, and got a lot of pucks back. We put it to the bottom and got it back, and it led to a lot of time in the offensive end.
The amount of time spent in their zone wasn’t a problem for us. It was access to the net afterward. That is something that we’ve talked about a lot today. We recognize the challenge, but we’ve got to stay with the process that leads us to getting access to their zone and to make better use of those pucks.
What can William Nylander do to get himself more involved tomorrow?
Keefe: I thought Willy was involved in a lot. I thought he and Auston were two guys that were really driving things for us offensively. In fact, I thought it and I felt it and the stats backed it up — he had the puck on his stick more than anybody in our team in the offensive zone. I would say he was not a problem for us yesterday.
If Pierre Engvall plays tomorrow night, what would he bring that you like?
Keefe: We haven’t made any final decisions on what our lineup is going to look like. With Pierre in particular, as we are making decisions on him, he is a guy who, for me, didn’t have a great camp for us. We think he has got a lot more to offer when he is at his best. We think he makes us a better team, but we haven’t seen him at his best here throughout camp or even in the little bit of opportunity we gave him in the exhibition.
When Pierre gets back in the lineup, we expect him to really push to stay in the lineup. As I said, when he is playing, he makes us a better team. We need him at his best. We need him really competitive and physical and skating — doing all of the things he is capable of.
Both John Tavares and Mitch Marner spoke about wanting to be better in Game 2. What more would you like to see from them tomorrow?
Keefe: Just better execution, first of all — taking care of the puck, putting the puck in intelligent spots, looking to find different ways to get involved offensively. This team, as we fully expected, is going to make it really hard for us offensively, particularly off the rush — a spot where Mitch and John have a lot of success. We knew we were facing the number-one team in the NHL when it comes to defending the rush. Because of that, we have to find different ways to score. That is an adjustment.
Obviously, scoring is what we really need when you look at yesterday’s game. There is a lot more that happens throughout the game that can give you opportunities to carry play and win your shift and all of those types of things. We just need those guys to be playing at their best — especially now coming off of a loss. We need to respond in a big way here.
Not to single out anybody on our team, we need everybody to be better. We think everybody on our team has another level to get to, and we are going to need it tomorrow.
From the defensive standpoint in Game 1, were you satisfied with what you saw?
Keefe: I thought we gave up a little bit too much in transition — stuff coming out of the offensive zone with them transitioning and getting up the ice quick to get some shots. For the most part, we kept those to pretty manageable distance to be stopped, but nonetheless, we still gave up a little too much there. It was not so much the defensive pieces, but moreso the transition when you are in the o-zone to getting back into defensive posture.
When it came to defensive-zone coverage, I thought we spent a little bit too much time in our own zone. I didn’t like that part of it, but I did think, for the most part, that we kept them away from our net fairly well. That was a big focus for us.
What will be the key to generating more second and third chances so you aren’t as one-and-done as frequently in the offensive zone?
Keefe: We’ve got to get more pucks to the inside and into those spaces. It is a lot easier said than done, so we’ve got to really work in sequences and work to break them down and get them tired — all of those types of things.
We had a couple of real quality looks where with a little more luck, it goes our way, but we need more of them. It is not enough. We need to stay with it, stay focused, stay hungry, stay competitive, and not get frustrated. That is what their system is designed to do: to frustrate you. We’ve talked a lot about that.
The good news is that, in talking to our guys and the type of practice that we had, our guys are not frustrated. Our guys are hungry to get back at it and recognize where we can get better and know that we have more to give. They’ll be ready to play tomorrow.
Columbus was one of the least penalized teams in the league this year. They’re really disciplined. How do you go about drawing more power plays? When you get a chance, does it put more pressure on the group to produce, knowing you might not get the quantity of chances?
Keefe: That is another thing we’ve talked about — that they’d be tough to come by. We looked at the first day of the games on Saturday and the volume of penalties. The average was almost near 10 or 9.5 power plays. We weren’t sure if there would be a little bit of carryover there, but generally, our expectation was — given that we don’t draw a lot of penalties as a team, and they don’t take many penalties — power plays would be hard to come by.
We were excited when we got our one opportunity and of course, disappointed we didn’t make good on it. We have to be able to take advantage of the ones we do get and look to keep our feet moving and draw as many as we can, while recognizing that we are really going to have to be good and win the 5v5 battle, most importantly, and take advantage of any special team opportunities we do get.