Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 5-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 2 to even the series at 1-1.
On the play of Pierre Engvall and Alex Galchenyuk in their return to the lineup:
I thought those guys gave us what we thought we were going to get — a little extra speed, a little extra skill, competitiveness on the puck. Speed is a big part of that in order to get to those spots. I thought we had a really engaged hockey team today all the way through our lineup.
On Auston Matthews’ performance tonight:
I guess the best way to describe it is just very complete, extremely competitive, physical on the puck, made plays, scored a huge goal for us. He played with all sorts of authority. He was strong in the faceoff dot. There wasn’t really anything that he didn’t do extremely well here today.
I thought we had good efforts all the way through the lineup today, but no question, Auston was a real difference maker tonight.
On the number of penalties the team drew tonight:
I thought we had the puck the entire second period for the most part. That really caused some fatigue on the other side. We were able to really get at them that way. I think that was a big factor. I haven’t watched all of the penalties back yet to see how they were called, but it just seemed like we had a lot of life and a lot of momentum, especially through that second period.
On the six consecutive penalties by Montreal and if he has seen it before:
Sure, I have seen it before. Montreal has made it very clear that they want to be very physical. I think the quote they termed was that they want to make it a war. If you are going to do that, you are at risk of getting penalties called against you. It is our job as a power play to make them pay for that.
That is part of it. I haven’t really watched the penalties back, so I don’t know what was there. On the topic of penalties, I hated the call that was made against us. I didn’t like that, either. There is a lot at stake here. You are never going to be overly excited with the way the calls go. The officials have the toughest job of everybody out there. However it works out in the end, as players, you have to deal with it.
On the decision to keep Rasmus Sandin on PP1 after he made a mistake for a shorthanded goal against in Game 1:
He makes a mistake there, and his mistake is probably that he didn’t go off the ice on the way back for that puck, so he doesn’t tire in that instance. That was the mistake. Of course, that stood out in my mind as well. If you go back and watch the game, break down the game, and study the game, you really pick out a lot of positive things.
With that experience of playing in that first game — it is so fast and physical — I thought he would be better today. I just think, with Rasmus, the payoff can be really big for us in terms of his skill set and what he can bring. That requires a little extra patience on our side. I just really had belief he was going to be better today than he was in the first game.
At the same time, I came away from watching the first game in its totality feeling a lot better about his game — not just focusing on one mistake, which we tend to do a lot. Certainly, the media does that, but even coaches tend to do that at times. That is why it is important to take the time the next day to break it down.
On the confidence the team can build off of the power play’s success tonight:
It’s big. For us, as a coaching staff, we can preach the process as much as we want and show them the number of good looks they were creating. Even the other night in Game 1, the power play was really strong for us early in the game and didn’t get rewarded. We didn’t like, when the game was on the line and we had a chance to really make a difference, how we didn’t look as comfortable or as confident.
We got right back to work today. Obviously, I was really pleased to see us get rewarded. Those guys need that and deserve it. They were giving us all sorts of life. Even when it wasn’t going in, you could just sense the energy on the bench growing. That is what you really want from your power play: of course, you want the goals, but sometimes it doesn’t go your way and fall in. You want to be building positive momentum throughout the bench, and you want to be wearing down the opponent.
The power play did that, and eventually, it broke free and scored us a huge goal.
On the team’s emotional response after the loss of Tavares:
Yesterday was a real good opportunity for us as a team to regroup and push past that, especially after being put at ease that, all things considered, John was doing well. Credit to John himself — his leadership of our team, despite his situation, did not stop. He took it upon himself to send messages to the team and reassure the team. I thought that really helped put our guys in the right headspace.
We had great concern and fear in that moment, but with him feeling better, he made sure to communicate to his teammates. I think that really helped our team push past it. We miss him greatly on the ice. We miss him greatly on the room. We don’t like the fact that he wasn’t able to be here in the building with us tonight, but the guys just refocused and played.
You are winning for him. You are winning for all of the guys who don’t get to play. You are winning for the guy next to you in the room or on the bench. There are all sorts of reasons to compete. We have another reason here to make sure everyone is on board and doing their job.