Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 5-1 walloping of the Vancouver Canucks, improving the Leafs’ record to 9-2-1 on the season.
On the status of Wayne Simmonds:
No real update here yet. He is still getting looked at and evaluated. We will have that for you guys on Monday morning when we get back together again.
On the consistency of the team’s 60-minute effort:
I don’t know if I would be able to say it was 60-minutes consistent — Vancouver had their pushes — but I did like our start, obviously. We knew the start was going to be really important here tonight. We wanted to establish our game once again. I thought we were able to do that.
Vancouver pushed back pretty hard in the last 7-8 minutes of the first period. We were able to extend our lead in the second, which is really important.
I thought Vancouver put a lot more pressure on us here today. We capitalized when we had our chances. Obviously, the Matthews line was really rolling here today and was just the real difference for us.
On Matthews’ highlight-reel goal:
It just speaks to his ability and how special he is. It happened so fast that I don’t think anybody on the ice was really ready for how quickly he went from going around the defender to putting it in the net. It is impressive.
All season, I really think he has been very good for us, but in these last two games, he has really had jump. If anything, I felt I had gotten in his way a little bit just with us getting into leads and me reducing his minutes. Maybe not reducing his minutes — he has still had pretty good minutes — but disrupting his flow. Times when I normally would get him out there for o-zone starts and shifts in succession, I am holding him back and doing more of a 1-4 rotation. That disrupted his flow a little bit.
In both of these games he played here, he could’ve had four or five. He was really feeling it. That is really good for us, obviously, and good for him that he is having that confidence. He is doing it in all zones for us since the start of the season, and now he is starting to get the consistent rewards around the net. It’s great for him to get that.
On whether it was Mikko Lehtonen’s best showing:
I would say so, definitely. He looked really confident and comfortable out there. I thought his touches of the puck were real efficient. He didn’t have to defend a great deal here today, which I think allowed him to get more comfortable. Definitely, his touches were good — not just the ones that resulted in goals but throughout the game, he was really solid moving the puck.
On the performance of the third line, Vesey – Kerfoot – Mikheyev:
I thought they skated really well. I thought they had the puck a good deal. Just like I did the other night, I’ll have to go back and roll through just their shifts and focus just on them. I’ll have to do that again just to see the detail inside of it.
We have three guys there who are really trying to find themselves offensively. I thought the speed they had on the puck and the work ethic they had, we can’t take that away from them. That makes them effective. In terms of the chemistry of the line, I think they’re still looking to find it.
On whether he expects the third line to score or not get scored on:
It depends on the game. On a night like tonight, obviously, we don’t need them to score. We need them to be harder to play against, to win shifts, and keep our positive progression going as a team. That is what you are looking for. All three are trying to find themselves offensively and are looking to break out a little bit. We are finding ways to win games without that type of offense.
Those guys are still important players for us. All three are penalty killers. We ended up taking too many penalties here tonight and it ended up costing Fred a shutout. I am not sure if we necessarily needed to kill as many penalties towards the end there. I thought they were maybe looking to give them some calls and it cost Fred a shutout, but I thought that our penalty kill has consistently been good for us. When we look at it with our process and how it has gone, we like a lot of things about it. Yet there is one moment, it seems, in each game that will cost us a goal and it is really hurting the overall results of our PK.
Those three guys have all been really important pieces of what we think is a PK that has a good process and, over time, is going to have better results.
On how close the team is to the calibre of play he envisioned:
I think it is close. When you take someone like Joe out of our lineup, it changes a lot of things in terms of what we envisioned. In terms of how we are playing, I think these last couple of games are a little bit more of a reflection of that. We think we have put together two good games here in terms of having some good offensive pieces to our game and really having that connection offensively from our zone through the neutral zone to the offensive zone. I think we were really disconnected in that area, especially on the Alberta trip.
That is matching what I think has been not-perfect detail defensively. The fact that we have done a much better job of defending odd-man rushes and generally not allowing people to get behind us, and pairing that with the offense, it is starting to look like what we expect from our group.