Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-3 overtime defeat to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night, dropping the Leafs’ record to 7-2-1 on the season.
On the decision to give assistant captain letters to Zach Hyman and Jake Muzzin tonight:
It’s something that has been in place for quite some time. Before the training camp even began — long before camp — we had the discussion with myself, Kyle, and Shanny. We had the discussion with the players before camp began.
My take on last season, in getting to know the players and getting to know the leadership group: It is very clear that Hyman and Muzz are both big parts of our core and big parts of our leadership group. I think our established captains recognize that as well. This just was an opportunity to recognize that.
I thought it made sense with the additional jerseys that we wear. For myself, with all of the teams that I have coached, I believe in trying to recognize a larger group than just what you are allowed in a particular game. You have a C and two As. I think you have to recognize more people than that when you can. It was a chance to do that.
On who has been the biggest pleasant surprise on the roster through 10 games:
I wouldn’t say we have had any surprises. I think the guys we expect to be good have been good. I think we have gotten good performances from the players who have come in here that we are just getting to know and are still getting comfortable with the system and their surroundings and their teammates. I wouldn’t say there has really been any pleasant surprises.
We have met expectations in a lot of ways. There still remains many areas for us to get better.
On picking up a point tonight and in eight of the first 10 games:
On tonight: We haven’t played from behind since the first game of the season, and maybe the Ottawa game. In the games we have been in here of late, we have had the lead and then gave up the lead and then had to get it back again to get our wins. Today was a little bit different. We had to push back. It was similar to what other teams have done to us on this trip. We’ve had leads, they’ve come back, and we’ve had to find a way to get a win.
I was happy that our guys didn’t get rattled. At the end of the trip that has gone very well, with fatigue a definite factor here with the way it has been a long road trip and a busy stretch to get to 10 games, the guys pushed back right away and squared the game away. I thought we were pretty good again in the third period. We didn’t give up very much with, obviously, the exception of the chance right at the buzzer, basically, with that point-saving save from Fred. We were good there.
The overtime is what it is, right? We miss our breakaway, and they come down and score on their 2-on-1. That is sort of the way overtimes go.
In relation to the 10 games, we obviously feel very good about the results we have gotten. As I’ve said before, we still think we have a lot of areas we can continue to get better in. That is exciting for us as a team.
We have a chance here now to take a bit of a breath with four days off. We’ll take tomorrow as a full day off. In our second day on Monday, we’ll have just some optional stuff — optional for those who have played a lot. There are a number of guys I would like to see just stay away for a second day as well. We get two really good practice days before it heats up again for us.
We have lots to continue to work at. We didn’t get a traditional exhibition season, obviously, but in my mind, with the break coming here now, I think it is sort of a turning of the page in some senses. We have a pretty good sense of where we are as a group, and where we need to grow and get better. We expect to bring it to another level when we come back to play after this break.
On Mikko Lehtonen picking up his first NHL point, and his ongoing adjustment to the league:
Once again, he looked really comfortable on the power play. He did a really good job of delivering that puck to the net. It worked out well for us.
At five on five, it is tough to find him much rhythm here playing on the road. They are doing their best to get favourable matchups. They are looking for it, and you are trying to protect him and keep him away from two of the best players in the world. It makes it hard to find much rhythm there.
I think he still doesn’t look comfortable out there. We have put him in two of the last three games here and given him that opportunity. Now, we have a break and we’ll continue to work with him in some areas of development where we would like to see him get better now that we have lots of examples and film of him playing in the NHL and where we think he can get better.
We are hoping for and expecting continued progress there.