Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames that dropped the Leafs’ record to 28-11-4 on the season.
On Rittich’s performance in his Leafs debut vs. his former team:
I thought he looked really good in the net. I am sure it is a difficult night for him. The emotions are part of it, but then the actual gameplay is another thing — even just the colours of the jerseys and the different people on the ice that used to be on the other side. That can be difficult.
I thought he looked good in the net and looked confident. He made some good saves for us. I don’t think he had a chance on any of the goals. It was a good debut for him.
On Scott Sabourin receiving an opportunity in his Leafs debut:
He has just worked extremely hard every day that he has been around our group — whether it is training camp, the taxi squad, or what have you. He has done nothing but work extremely hard and be a good teammate around here. That is part of it.
We have been looking to give him an opportunity to play. He is one of the guys who hasn’t gotten an opportunity yet. We have given a number of opportunities to others. He played a whole season in the NHL last season and hadn’t gotten a chance here yet.
We were looking, and given the opponent and who they were and the fact that it was a back-to-back for us, it was as good of a time as any. I thought he did his job. We didn’t use him in the third period, but on the shifts he got, he moved his feet, he was physical, and he found a fight and held his own against as tough of a customer as there is in the league.
Definitely, we were happy with what he did.
On Jason Spezza’s night off:
He is fine. We made the lineup change here as a chance to give Spezz a rest. It’s a combination of the schedule and the fact that he has been battling through a couple of things. He is fine, but just the schedule and some of the wear and tear was enough reason to give him a night. We were trying to give Sabourin a chance. They play the same position. All of the things added up to a night off, but he will be back in.
On whether the team will build in more rest nights down the stretch:
We will see how it goes. We will take it a day and a game at a time, but that is my thinking, yes. Both our roster and salary cap situation are different here now. We think that is going to present us some opportunities that we haven’t had up until this point. We will look to do that throughout. We will take it a day and a game at a time.
On how the team dealt with the challenge of a low-event style of game vs. the Flames:
We would like to do some things better for sure. I thought we were a little sloppy with the puck and didn’t adjust to the game well enough. They had a clear purpose to make life real hard on us to get through the neutral zone. They were very structured and very patient.
They played with the lead a great deal in the game, which played into their game, of course. By and large, I thought we did a pretty good job of staying with it here. Our schedule has been tough. They had one game in eight days coming into tonight. You knew that they were going to be fresh to make it harder on us.
I thought there were some things we can definitely do better. We can do some things better tactically. That is on me. Our execution and simplifying things, at times, we could’ve done better.
But I really liked our third period once again. We have to find a way to even the game. I thought we had opportunities to win the game at both even strength and on the power play. That was really good for us. Save for the final five minutes of the third period, I thought we were really good. All things considered, we are happy with that.
On John Tavares heating up offensively:
He has gotten some pucks in good areas. He is putting it on the net. When he does that and he gets into the slot, lets it go, and doesn’t overthink it, and when he gets to those spaces, things seem to go his way.
I have been answering a lot of questions on John all season, but I have felt pretty good about John’s play through most of this season on both sides of the puck. It is nice to see him get a little more of a reward in terms of 5v5 goals or assists.
On the latest on Nylander’s status:
We are still waiting to hear from the league on how that is going to proceed. I don’t really have an update other than it remains day-to-day here for him.