Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s come-from-behind overtime win over the Winnipeg Jets, improving the Leafs’ record to 19-7-2 on the season.
On the team sticking with it despite Hellebuyck’s outstanding performance:
I would say it was just staying with it and continuing to work for our opportunities. We had talked about it. Once again, I didn’t hate our game. I thought we were playing pretty well. We gave them a couple of great opportunities to score, and they did. We don’t want to give them those opportunities, of course, but I really — aside from that — didn’t dislike much about our game.
The difference was we had missed a lot of chances, a lot of breakaways, and things like that. They hadn’t gone in for us. We just had to stay with it and have confidence that we were going to score enough to be able to win but not give them the next one, which was important.
Of course, we ended up giving up the goal to tie it towards the end there, but I thought — by and large — it was a good third period and we got what we wanted out of it.
On the amount of time the team has been spending in the Jets’ end:
It is a tough thing, right? We don’t get the result we wanted the other night. I thought we played a pretty good game. You can’t give them free goals. You can’t make mistakes at bad times and just give them free looks. I thought we did that for their first two goals tonight. I didn’t like that. But we were generating a lot. It just felt like a matter of time before it would go in for us. I thought the guys were really working.
I thought William Nylander had his best game of the season today. He was outstanding. It was great to see him get rewarded with a goal. He certainly earned it with how he was playing.
I have been really encouraged. At the same time, with the way the game went, we very easily could’ve been on the other side of this one here tonight. It would’ve been difficult for us. How do you frame it? How do you stay with it despite the fact that we aren’t getting results? To get the win certainly feels good.
We hope we can continue with a similar process to what we have without giving up the “freebie” looks at the net — the 2-on-1s. By and large, I think our team has done a pretty good job in both games. It’s good to get the two points today and disappointing to give them one.
On Auston Matthews’ finish on his OT winner on a night when his wrist isn’t 100%:
Elite talent. He is a star. That is what they do. The condition of his hand aside, he was quite tired there, too. It was a long shift in OT and OT shifts are difficult. Just to have the energy to get up the ice and put himself in that spot, amidst the chaos of the broken stick and all of that nonsense that was happening — that is big-time stuff.
On the switch to move Hyman with Matthews and Marner and Thornton with Tavares and Nylander:
Just trying to change things up. We know Hyman has had a great deal of success in that spot. We get down in a game again, and we just wanted to change some things. I had been wanting to try Jumbo with John and Will for some time. It gave me a chance to do that.
At the same time, it allowed me to play Kerfoot with Engvall and Mikheyev, which I thought was important just to have another skater with lots of speed. We were trying to get them out as much as we could against the Ehlers, Connor, and Dubois line. We wanted to have another guy with speed on that line. It worked out that way for us.
On what stood out about William Nylander’s game tonight:
He just looked determined — determined to score, determined to make a difference. He started the game with a blocked shot. He was right in the lane. At that time in the game, it’s what the game called for. That is what we have been asking the guys to do: At different times, step out of character a little bit and deliver on what the game calls for. Early in the game, he has to get in the lane and he has to do a good job of preventing that puck from getting to our net. He blocks it and gets away for a breakaway.
I thought there were a number of examples like that. He has been all over the net making plays. He has done a lot of good things with the puck. He’s had a ton of opportunities to score. The great individual effort by JT to find him — that’s a great shot. It is not an easy pass to take across the body as a righty to bury it like that. It is a big-time goal.
I thought he really worked away from the puck. A lot of times, he was getting back and stripping guys and creating turnovers in the neutral zone. Those are the kinds of things we need from him consistently. Today, I thought he was a real difference maker.
On the growth in Zach Hyman’s game with his puck skills:
He has a lot of confidence. He is holding onto pucks a lot more here now. If we look and reflect on the last season and coming back into this season, he has adjusted his game here. We are encouraging him to hold onto the puck a little bit more. We are encouraging him to look for linemates and make plays when he is there. We are encouraging him to challenge defensemen with his speed and how he protects the puck.
We know he is great at retrieving the puck and those kinds of things, and we still obviously need that from him, but I love the way he challenges defensemen and doesn’t let them off the hook. He doesn’t make it so they can go back for a puck all the time. Sometimes, he is just burying his head and challenging them to take it from them. That mindset — defensemen don’t like that and it opens up a lot of things for him.
It has created a lot of space for him now. He is attacking middle ice and getting shots from the middle of the rink. There are a lot of things happening that are really good and really encouraging for our team no matter where we are playing him. He is just being himself. I think he is adding different layers to his game offensively.