After practice on Tuesday, Sheldon Keefe updated the media on the status of Ondrej Kase and John Tavares for tomorrow’s game in Philadelphia, the lack of goal production from the defense and bottom six of late, Justin Holl re-entering the lineup in place of Travis Dermott, and Nick Ritchie’s scoring slump to start the season.
November 9 Practice Lines
#Leafs lines at practice Nov. 9/21
Absent: Tavares, Kase, Campbell (did work before)
— David Alter (@dalter) November 9, 2021
Any update on Ondrej Kase and John Tavares?
Keefe: Both got banged up yesterday. Both are day-to-day. They are going to travel with us and come to Philadelphia, which is a positive sign that they could play… I expect for both of them it will be [a game-time decision].
The top four forwards have scored 14 straight goals for the team. How do you assess where the secondary scoring is at right now?
Keefe: We need to get contributions from those guys for sure. There was a time when we were getting contributions from those lines, and the top guys weren’t scoring. We would like it to match up where everybody is rolling at the same time. It doesn’t always work that way.
Between the rest of our forwards and our defense, for that matter, we want to get contributions throughout the lineup. Those big goals are important. The Kampf goal for us out in Chicago is a massive goal at a very key time. You need those every now and again. Last night was certainly one of those nights.
Is it a bit of an oddity that the defense has scored just the one goal this year?
Keefe: I would say it is a bit of an oddity. It is something we have looked at over the last year or so: How can we more consistently get our defense involved? Muzzin’s goal that he scored is a good example of how we engaged our defense. We have had a number of other guys with very similar looks and it hasn’t gone in.
We believe we have some guys there with the capability of scoring when they get opportunities and it hasn’t gone in yet. We have to stay looking for ways to engage our defense and get them involved offensively, but also, at the same time, can they finish better? Can they look for other options?
Sometimes, for the D, it is not so much the actual goal going into the net, but can you create a goal for somebody else by shooting the puck off of the goaltender or off of a stick? It creates more chaos. Overall, as we get to that, more offense will follow.
What are you looking for from Justin Holl when he re-enters the lineup?
Keefe: Just to be the Justin Holl we have come to expect. That’s it. He is a good player. He is a guy who has done very well for us. He is an important part of our team. As I have said before, I didn’t expect him to sit out as long as he did, but it is a credit to the other guys that were going well.
After last night’s game, the door has opened here again for us to make a change. We are going to do that. We expect Justin just to be the player we have come to expect. As I have told him before, my hope is that this is a bit of a reset for him, that he comes out refocused, and we don’t have to revisit him sitting out for this period of time again.
When you were setting the new defense pairings, was it an easy decision to put Justin Holl back where he was?
Keefe: It was easy mainly because of the fact that he sat for as long as he did. For tomorrow, we will have Holl in and Dermott will come out just for the sake of some continuity with Sandin and Liljegren. It just allows us to have some greater balance with guys who are familiar with each other. That is really it.
What we have learned as we have gone through this exercise over the last five games is that we have seven defensemen that can play and can help us. That is a very positive thing for us. We also have guys who can play with different people. We didn’t really have that last season. We had a lot of continuity throughout the lineup throughout the season.
Early on here, we have mixed things up. Some of it we have been forced to do. Some of it we have done ourselves. I think that will serve us well as we go down the line. Going into tomorrow, we just like having a little more continuity with guys who are familiar with each other.
What is your sense of how Nick Ritchie has handled his scoring slump?
Keefe: I think he has handled it well in the sense that when I talk to him, he is not down or frustrated. At the same time, we want to make sure we stay on top of him with just the urgency of the situation. It is not so much the fact that he hasn’t scored, but shift to shift, it’s bringing urgency and consistency in his play.
As I’ve said a few times previously, I think he has done a lot of good things that have gone unnoticed and he hasn’t been rewarded for. I thought, like a lot of our players, last night was not a good day for him. We expect a lot more and we need to get a lot more out of him. Part of that is on him, and part of that is on us to help him get there.
How much offense do you think you can get from the Kampf line?
Keefe: In terms of how often the puck goes in the net, that remains to be seen. Kase is a guy who has scored in the league and has that ability. We think he has that. We are working with Kampf a lot in terms of capitalizing on some of the looks and chances that he has.
He has a great skill set in other areas of the ice. He comes out of our zone. He makes plays. He sees the ice. He attacks the middle of the rink. He protects pucks well. He hangs onto it. His line generates a lot of shots. It is about how can we get those shots to be from more dangerous areas, and how can we be a bit more deceptive on the shot when shooting at the goaltender?
Engvall is another guy who generates a ton of shots, but a lot of perimeter stuff. We are working with him to try to get to the interior of the rink and have those be more consistent threats.
In terms of the actual goal production, it remains to be seen, but in terms of the individual skill set, how the three of them work together, how they get on offense and generate shots? We think there is great potential there.
What is your sense of how Michael Bunting has fit in with Auston Matthews and William Nylander?
Keefe: I think he has done a really good job. Again, a lot of guys didn’t have a very good night yesterday. Bunting was one.
I thought Boston was maybe his best game. He was all over the puck, forechecking, generating loose pucks, generating shots for himself and others. They were on offense a lot. He was extremely competitive. That is a really good sign of what he is capable of doing against a very tough opponent.
Like our team and like a lot of our players, we are seeking consistency here. He has to bring that every single day.
Will Jack Campbell start in Philadelphia?