Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets that improved the Leafs’ record to 30-13-5 on the season and increased their lead to eight points clear at the top of the North Division.
On the positive takeaways from the game:
There are a few different things. The first one is our ability to bounce back and not get rattled after getting scored against on the first shot. We bounced back and didn’t look back from there. That is something — just the resilience and the confidence of our team to not get rattled by that.
Again, I liked the contributions all throughout the lineup — four lines, six defensemen all contributing in various ways, whatever the game called for, whether it is getting enough offense to build the lead, drawing penalties, the power play or penalty kill, good solid defensive play throughout that third period and second period as well.
There were a number of good things. Of course, we can’t overlook how Jack Campbell played today. We did have some breakdowns here at really, really important times in the game where he made very big saves for us.
This was a solid team win. That’s the biggest one. It is a team win. That is what it takes to win when it counts the most — contributions from all throughout the lineup. We got that tonight.
On Rasmus Sandin’s performance and using him on the power play:
The power play part is a big part of his game. He has great confidence there. I have seen him from a very young age — at the American league level — take over a power play. We knew when we had him in the lineup that we wanted to introduce him to the power play and give him an opportunity. The way the power plays were going tonight, it was tough to get him out there a whole lot. We gave him the one shift with the top group.
The way he moves the puck with the confidence that he has at five-on-five really helps us. He doesn’t get rattled by much at all. He is a competitive guy. He is getting better and better every game. That is really what you want to see with a young player.
I don’t know a great deal about it. I did hear some rumblings to that effect. I think it just, first of all, speaks to the character of our group. I think it also speaks to the recognition of the fact that through this pandemic, people of all walks of life are going through some tough times — in the hockey business as well at different levels. If you are a guy playing on an AHL contract, it is a challenge to get through this period.
I don’t know a whole lot about it. I am not surprised that our players have the character that they do and are stepping up.
On what it means to the group when Joe Thornton plays with the emotion and physicality he has brought of late:
I just think it is a really good sign for our team that things are different. It is a different time of year. We are really gearing up here as a group. There has been a switch that has flipped a little bit here for Joe in the last few weeks. He is bringing more fire, competitively, on the ice, in the dressing room, and on the bench.
It’s just striking such a nice balance between energy and positivity with a level of seriousness and competitiveness. To me, that combination is what drives winning. He has really stepped up in that regard.
On Jack Campbell suggesting he has learned a lesson about not being so hard on himself and whether his teammates and coaching staff are picking him up in that regard:
I think everybody has helped him with that. I have had a conversation with him — it was the game after I pulled him there in Calgary — where I wanted to talk to him before he left the building about that. It is part of playing every day.
It is a credit to him for taking responsibility, ownership, stepping up, and taking some heat, but it is unnecessary. There are times he has taken a knee and he doesn’t deserve it. He has played excellent and had played excellent for us. He didn’t deserve that. It is just a matter of giving him permission to be a little more even-keeled and ride the wave a little bit better.
As he is playing more and is being relied on more, that is just a big part of remaining even-keeled and showing confidence and resolve. We know how humble he is, how hard he works, and how great of a teammate he is. I think his teammates helped him with that, and coaching staff, training staff. It’s really just part of the maturation process as he is growing into a new goal here.