Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s intrasquad scrimmage game to conclude training camp.
Keefe on Mikko Lehtonen’s showing:
I thought he did what he does well in terms of getting pucks at the net. He looked comfortable in that sense. That was really good to see. At the same time, you can tell that with the increased pace of play and the way this game was here today in comparison to our previous scrimmage — a lot more game-like in that sense — you can still see him adjusting to that.
Keefe on Lehtonen’s assets:
He moves the puck with confidence, especially on the offensive side of the red line. He gets it to the net. The puck comes off of his stick very well. Something as simple as the shot that gets through and Willy gets a tip on — that is a strength of his. That is the source of a lot of his points in the KHL: getting pucks by the first and second layer, getting it to the net, and good things happen, whether it is power play or even strength.
Probably the biggest positive of all is just his attitude and approach. He is a hard worker. He listens well. He asks questions. He responds well to coaching. Those are all, to me, the most positive things that will lend themselves to growth.
Keefe on Pierre Engvall’s performance:
I expect better from Pierre, to be honest, just in terms of his play with the puck. We’ve got to kind of redirect him towards the other end of the ice. I thought he skated and worked well. It is nice to see him score a big goal. We might be coming up on, if not past, the one year anniversary of his last goal. It is good to see that to get the confidence going in that sense. But I was hoping for better from him today.
Keefe on wearing a mask on the bench:
Wearing it on the bench wasn’t nearly as difficult as wearing it on the ice in practice. We are still able to talk and players are able to hear you when you are standing behind them like that. On the ice in practice, it is very difficult to communicate and explain drills and talk to the entire group. I have found that to be the most difficult thing.
Other than communicating with the officials a few times — that is a challenge, as they can’t read your lips at times and it’s loud with the music and those kinds of things. You can tell, if they can’t read my lips, they can’t really hear me. That was a challenge, but I didn’t find much of a challenge with the mask.
Keefe on the need to give Lehtonen and Barabanov the opportunity to adjust:
We do. We need to give them an opportunity. We think we have done that through this camp and through here today. Obviously, the puck is going to drop and we are playing for real. Every game and every point matters. We have to be very mindful of that.
We want to give the players an opportunity to grow for sure, but the circumstances of the training camp and of the season don’t allow for as much time as you’d like or you may require. They’ve got to find a way to adjust very quickly.
It is not just them. It is any player competing for a job — Joey Anderson, Adam Brooks, Nic Petan, Travis Boyd. Normally, they would get multiple exhibition games to make their mark and get comfortable and really kind of show you who they are and what they can bring to the group.
The circumstances are different. They aren’t normal, and it is those guys that it affects the most. We just have to make decisions quickly and do what is best for the team.
Keefe on whether the game changed any determinations for the coaching staff:
I don’t think there is a whole lot there in terms of making difficult decisions. Because it is such a short timeframe, I don’t think there is going to be a whole lot that is going to make us change our mind going into this situation.
I thought we expected to be really good today were: Auston and Mitch were dynamic and all over the ice. They could’ve had three or four goals each themselves, and it didn’t go in as much for them. Willy was also very good. John scored a big-time goal at the start of the game. The guys we expected to be good were.
We are starting to see the potential for guys like Joey Anderson, Adam Brooks, and those kinds of guys. I thought those guys really stood out positively as they got more comfortable. Unfortunately, camp is over here now. We’ve got to move on to the next phase. But is nice to see the depth is there for us.
Keefe on Thornton’s performance on the top line:
I thought Joe did his part. That is a lot of minutes for him out there today. We weren’t going to just spread the minutes out evenly. We were going to play as though it was a real game; a real exhibition game in the sense that we were trying to win and put our guys in situations similar to the way we would in the regular season in Auston and Mitch’s case.
Because we don’t have our entire lineup playing on one team, Joe was attached to those guys all the way through the game. I thought he went with them shift for shift very well. I was on the bench with him in the second period, and Joe seemed like he had lots of legs and energy. He was actually excited to get it going and gave me a little crack for not calling on him a couple of shifts where I bypassed them for some other guys.
It was really good to see. I thought he did his job on the line. The puck came to him, he advanced it and moved it to those guys in good spots. At times, he really spread the ice and created space for those guys in the neutral zone to do their thing. He has adapted his game a little bit, obviously, because those guys have the puck so much.
I thought the line did just fine. 34 and 16 are the guys that carry the mail for it, but Joe is doing his part.