Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7.
On how he puts the series loss into perspective:
Really hard to put it into words. We are obviously devastated, disappointed. We expected better of ourselves. We felt we were capable of a lot more — not just tonight but throughout the whole series.
On the biggest factor in the failure to close out the Habs in three opportunities:
I think it is really hard to pinpoint one thing. It is probably a little bit too fresh to break it down. Each game was a little bit different. Certainly, tonight’s game was played a lot different than the previous two.
It is a little too fresh here. Obviously, we didn’t score enough. We didn’t play with the lead. That made it hard.
On how the Tavares, Muzzin, and Foligno injuries factored into the outcome:
It goes without saying that those guys are really important to our team — be it John, Jake, and Nick. We missed Nick. He gave us everything he had in the games that he did play, but he was far from himself — far from 100%.
We put ourselves in a good spot in this series, and we didn’t get it done. Despite not having John or Nick, we were in a really good spot and didn’t close it out. We added enough pieces and depth to be able to deal with those types of situations. There are zero excuses.
On what held the team back in Game 7:
The opponent was part of it. They did a really good job here today of really clogging things up in the neutral zone and protecting their blue line.
As I said, the game is played a lot differently tonight than the previous two where they really pushed and really came at us. Today, they say back a lot. They were just content to wait for something to go their way, and it did.
I don’t know, when I go back and look at it, if I will find we gave up even one real scoring chance throughout the game at five-on-five. At the same time, we didn’t generate nearly enough. I think that was their recipe and plan here tonight. Clearly, it worked for them.
On whether he could feel some of his top players start to press as they failed to produce throughout the series:
Listen — those guys accept the responsibility they have to produce for the team. I didn’t see any sign of them pressing or getting frustrated or anything like that. I didn’t think they cheated or that their habits changed. Those guys want to win as much or more than any other guy we have. They are as hard on themselves as anyone.
They know the responsibility they have to the team. I didn’t see any sign of frustration both in watching them on the bench or talking with them before, during, and after games. It just didn’t go their way on the chances that they had.
On a night like tonight, our entire team struggled to generate much.
On whether the team had enough will to go with its skill:
I think our guys played hard. We had moments in the game where I thought, in Games 5 and 6, we were on our heels. That is not what we want in those moments. I am not going to question our team’s will or commitment or anything like that. Our guys wanted to win and wanted to push past this here. We didn’t get it done.
Part of that is on us. We also have to give credit and respect to Montreal. They found themselves. Certainly, through Game 5, 6, and 7, I thought you could feel a little bit of a shift in their team when Kotkaniemi and Caufield came into the lineup for them. You could just sense things shift a little bit in terms of their depth, speed, and skill that changed the dynamic of the series a little bit even though it took a little bit of time for that traction.
We had our opportunities to close this thing out, clearly. We failed to do so. You have to give credit to Montreal for the job that they did.
On the message to the group after the game:
Our guys were quite devastated, as you might imagine, after the game. I chose not to speak to the group post-game. We will get an opportunity. When the dust settles, we will have the group back together here again in a couple of days. We will go through those kinds of things then.