Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators in the third game of the exhibition season.
On the positive result and the team’s performance:
I was really pleased with the effort all the way through the game. All the way through the lineup, the effort the guys gave — whether it was five-on-five, or the guys that killed penalties, or that got their chance on the power play, or goaltending — all the way around, it was a really great effort.
The one thing that I was actually really surprised with, just given that we are here in preseason game #3, is that we had a lot of guys competing with each other for spots here in this game today, and the energy of the team, the positivity, and the competitive spirit of the group was really, really strong. That is why I think they played as hard as they did.
They made few mistakes. When they did make mistakes, they were there to cover for each other and back each other up through effort. I was really impressed with the effort and the commitment the guys showed tonight.
On whether there was curiosity about how the team would come together with so many regulars out of the lineup:
There was a lot of curiosity. Generally, in preseason, curiosity is a good word in terms of how you go into things. You don’t really know what to expect. You don’t know how the guys are going to perform or how they’re going to gel. You are just kind of throwing a group of guys together in a lot of ways.
A lot of guys, especially in this lineup, haven’t played together throughout camp and played together tonight. We left a lot of the talent and experience back home in Toronto. Ottawa had a lot of talent and experience out of their group, but the guys who played for us tonight played hard and played together.
They did what we asked of them. They executed on the things we talked about throughout camp. We made really good adjustments in our penalty kill from the game in Montreal on Monday to tonight. The guys executed very well.
On how David Kampf helps the team’s depth down the middle of the ice:
That’s something I think our team has really needed the last couple of seasons: that extra depth at center ice. He is a guy whose strength is on the penalty kill and he welcomes defensive assignments.
Alex Kerfoot has done a lot of that work for us. To have the extra support here now with Kampf not only helps Kerf but also helps Matthews and Tavares as well. They have taken on really the bulk of the responsibility. That just gives us extra options and allows us to spread ice time around a little bit better.
If we ever want to put Kerfoot on the wing, we have the support there. A lot of really good things come from that addition.
On Michael Bunting’s hat trick:
I have known Bunts a real long time. He gets himself into the scoring areas. He has great hands and great sense around the net. When he gets opportunities, he has the ability to score. He is as hungry as anybody to score. For him to get off to this start here in the preseason is a tremendous sign for him and us.
On how Josh Ho-Sang is settling into camp:
For a guy like him, he has to come in here and get comfortable. I think he has done a really good job of that. A lot of that work was done before camp even began with the amount of time spent in our facility training, getting to know the guys, and getting to know the staff in terms of strength coaches and trainers and such. He is very comfortable. That has helped him get off to a good start.
We have given him a good opportunity to play with good players. That has helped. I think he is in a really good spot right now. The way I look at it is that he is really a blank page in the sense that he has come in here with a fresh start. He knows he has a great skill set, but he is learning to play the game the way that is required to be able to do more things than just be a dynamic offensive talent. He is adding a foundation to his game in other areas. That gives him more versatility as a player.
I have been really impressed with how he has handled himself here in the early going.
On the conversations he has had with Ho-Sang about expectations:
I have had a couple of conversations with him in passing. Before camp begins, I am usually off on my own and giving the players their space as they do their thing with strength coaches and such. I am not overly involved at that time. Certainly, he was a guy who was a priority for me to speak with in terms of letting him know we are excited to have him.
I was in junior when he was in junior. I have followed his path and coached against him in the AHL. I have some context with him as a player for both, frankly, the good things and the not-so-good things that I have seen, experienced, or witnessed in his game.
We were going to give him a fresh start and a good opportunity. I made it very clear what I expected of him. As I said, he has been really good. As I am sitting here, he has had a greater sample with our strength coaches and training staff before camp even began. He has done nothing but work and do what is asked of him.