Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-3 victory over the Calgary Flames, completing the two-game sweep and improving the Leafs’ record to 6-2-0 on the season.
On the team finding a way to close out the sweep:
We were reeling there for quite a while. The fact that our best people just got to work when things were all even again, went out there, found a way to get us another one, and we were pretty good there to the end… The penalty kill made it harder on ourselves, but it was a pretty gutsy win that way.
We didn’t like a lot of things about the game today in terms of how we let them back in it, of course. That just shows, again, where we need to continue to grow as a team. At the same time, that is a good team over there. That is two games where they played us hard and carried play for good chunks of time in both games. We knew they were going to push back.
I wish we could’ve been a little bit better there, but to come out of it with a win here tonight is a really good sign for our team in terms of resiliency, not folding, and not feeling sorry for ourselves when we gave up the lead. All are really good, healthy signs for our team. There are lots of things that we will take away from tonight that will help us get better from here.
On what he liked about the first period in which the team built a 2-0 lead and outshot Calgary 10-1:
I thought we were really tight. Our gaps were tight. We got above the puck really quickly and really controlled the neutral zone very well. We didn’t give them many opportunities to get going.
They’ve got a lot of skill — a lot of skill, a lot of speed. When you are loose in the neutral zone, they attack the line with control, and they go to work in the offensive zone. That is kind of what happened in the second period. It was a lot looser in that regard.
In the first, we were real tight. We didn’t give them much space to operate. I do think the shots on goal were a little misleading. If you look at the actual shot attempts and time in zone, we actually spent more time in our end than we did in theirs. But we defended real well, and that is why not a whole lot of high-danger stuff go to the net.
That was really positive, but we talked in the intermission about how it was going to be a much different second period. It certainly was. We would’ve liked to have handled that a little better.
On the debut performances of Travis Boyd and Joey Anderson, and the competition for the final spots in the lineup:
I thought that line, with the additions of Boyd and Andersen with Engvall, gave us real good shifts. The goal — that’s huge. We haven’t had a lot of production coming from there. Simmonds scores a goal as well.
To get production from those lines is really big and important. I did like what we got from those guys. I obviously felt confident enough to put them out there real late in the game, and I had a pretty good sense that they wouldn’t send their best people. Those guys gave us a good shift, and then, unfortunately, a puck goes over the glass and we are holding on pretty tight to the end.
Those guys gave us a lot. At the same time, if you look at the players we took out — whether it is Dermott on defense or Spezza or Barabanov on forward — those guys haven’t done anything to come out. It is more a matter of us needing to make changes just to get other people involved.
With no exhibition games, we don’t want to allow too much time to go by here without giving people opportunities to play and get games. You just don’t know when you are going to need these guys, as we have already seen with the injuries and needing to change the lineup with Robertson and Thornton, and Matthews for a game. We want to make sure we are giving these guys a chance to play, so that is why we made the changes.
In terms of Dermott and Spezza, I like what these guys have done. That’s not why we made the changes. It was more just to keep other people involved.
On his comfort level with Mikko Lehtonen:
We are still in that stage where I am getting a feel for what he can bring. I am really confident and comfortable with him on the power play. There is no doubt about that. At even strength, there is a lot for us to still find out in terms of how he can handle different matchups, and how much we need to protect him and give him an opportunity to really adjust to the league, to the pace of pace, and the competition.
I would still say we are uncomfortable. If he were speaking honestly, Mikko is probably a little uncomfortable, too. That is where we are at here with this type of season. There were no exhibition games. That is where you get all of these bugs out and get a feel for guys. We didn’t have that luxury.
Whether it is Mikko or whether it is any of our depth players we have been moving in and out, it is a challenge. Every team is dealing with that in their own way. We will continue to get him involved when we can and give him opportunities to get comfortable himself. Over time, he will earn the trust of the coaching staff. But it is difficult, no doubt.
On Mitch Marner’s improvements on his shot and his desire to improve in that area:
A real differentiator for the truly great players — the truly elite players — of the league is that they are not satisfied. They are continuing to find ways to tweak their game, whether it is adding something such as improving your shot or one-timer.
Auston, last season, added a one-timer threat to his game and become really dangerous that way. You can see how he scored tonight on the power play — a different type of shot, one that is more what you see earlier in his few years in the league.
Mitch is always looking for ways to get better. All of our best players are. They really push everybody in that regard. When you see Mitch Marner, John Tavares, Auston Matthews, and William Nylander out on the ice every day practicing and working on different things, spending their offseason trying to add different layers to the game — if you are a player that is not at their level, you have no excuses. You have to keep pushing and working. They set the bar in that regard. That is good and healthy for our team and for those guys.