Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night, dropping the Leafs’ record to 18-7-2 on the season.
On the team’s first three-game losing slide:
We are just going through it here a little bit. I think every team goes through stretches like this. There is a lot for us to take away from it. It is obviously a good thing for us that in all three games, we are right there and we are in every game. We could’ve easily gotten points out of each. That is a good sign that we are still right there.
That said, what really clearly comes out of these games for me: Games are close. The division is extremely competitive. That is a very good team we are playing against tonight. But you either have winning habits or losing habits. When you have losing habits, you end up giving up free goals. When you are not scoring enough on the other side of it, you lose games.
We have to get back to consistent winning habits. We will find that things will end up working out in our favour in the end. It is obviously very disappointing that after three fantastic — perhaps our best of the season — games in Edmonton, we have followed it up here now with… Not poor performances — we have played fine in each game — but we are not doing enough of the little things well that end up getting you to find a way to win games.
On a winning habit vs. losing habit:
A winning habit — simply for me — is that when we don’t have a play and there is nothing happening, you force a play through the middle of the ice versus just moving the puck forward and putting it to a safe place where you get structure around it. It cost us a goal in Vancouver. It essentially cost us the game.
Tonight, it is a very similar play. We are stuck in the neutral zone and we are tired. We turn it over when we need to get fresh guys on. We are caught on a line change. We don’t have any structure coming back, and the puck is in your net.
It is little things like that. When you are not scoring enough to allow for mistakes for that, you have to keep piling on positive and good habits and good shifts. Over time, things will find their way. Those are the little things that come out of it that are lessons we need to learn.
We didn’t play poorly. I thought we played good enough, certainly, to get a point out of this game. We were right there. I’d like to see us generate more offense, but I still think we generated more than enough to score more than we did. Obviously, their goaltender — I think it is fair to say — was their best goaltender tonight.
To me, you can still win games or get points if you have good enough habits. Those are the little things that have slipped in the last little bit for us.
On Auston Matthews’ two-goal game as he plays through the injury:
I think it just speaks to the calibre of player that he is. I also don’t think he gets enough credit for scoring those types of [dirty] goals. If you go back through his goals, he has scored more than his fair share of those types of goals. He has extremely good hands around the net.
He doesn’t typically play in those positions, so he doesn’t maybe get as many opportunities as many people, but he has a lot of goals that he scores in and around his net. That is what I am talking about: him adapting his game a little bit, going to different spaces. He has good enough abilities and sense to make good on those chances.
On whether the game was a case of the Leafs beating themselves versus the other team beating them:
I would say so. That is kind of what I am getting at. We definitely got caught on a line change, but you need to make line changes. Guys are tired. It is about taking care of the puck and putting the puck in a good spot to let the line change happen in that case.
The penalty kill has to find a way to get a kill for us. You have to get that stop. It is a very similar goal to what we gave up the other night. You’ve got to get a blocked shot. With seven seconds left in the kill, you’ve got to get through it. We were late there.
Winnipeg played a good game, too. They defended well. They were very opportunistic. But certainly, when talking about habits and mistakes, when you are up against a goalie that is playing very well and they aren’t giving you anything for free on offense, you can’t have those types of breakdowns and mistakes if you are expecting to get points out of games.
For me, that is why we have come up empty-handed in these three games. I don’t think we have played poorly, but I think it is just little things that end up going the other side. Throughout the season, on a lot of nights, we score enough or the bounces have kind of gone our way. It is coming back the other way. I just think that we are helping it go that way with some of our decisions and how things have slipped.
Maybe we can chalk it up to team fatigue. I don’t quite know. I just know that we have to continue to learn from it.
On Zach Hyman’s performance:
I thought he was really good. He has been really good for us. He played hard. That is a big-time goal he scored for us. He is working. He is doing his job for us. He has been really good.