Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers that improved the Leafs’ record to 8-5-1 on the season.
On the team’s performance defensively in the shutout win:
I just thought we did a good job of protecting our net, both defending in zone and off the rush. I really liked our special teams. The penalty kill was outstanding. That gives us a lot of life and a lot of chance to keep it out of our net, keep the score down, and keep the game manageable. Offense was hard to come by.
We got a goal, and I don’t think we gave them much after that. The power play comes through, and then you get a nice insurance goal. I just liked the intensity our team played with defensively in a game that we knew was going to be low event and hard to get much offense. This is a team in Philadelphia that hasn’t given up much throughout the season in terms of chances against and goals against.
We needed to be able to be comfortable playing in a tight game. Going into the third, we talked about being comfortable winning the game 1-0 if that is what it was going to take. I felt that if we had that approach, there would be some offense available to us.
I thought we had a textbook third period in a lot of ways. It is a good, clean win for our team.
On whether William Nylander is shooting the puck more:
I don’t necessarily recognize that other than the power play, which is probably what you are referring to more than anything. He is in different positions on the power play. He has been consistently with that one unit. I think that is the biggest thing.
He has definitely got a great shot. He is a lethal scorer when he gets opportunities and clean looks at the goalie. We saw that here tonight.
On Ondrej Kase ending the streak of goals by the Big Four:
A lot of our guys that are lower in our lineup have been working real hard. In particular with him, he is competing real hard. He has had a number of chances to score. He was questionable to play tonight even, but he felt good enough through the morning skate.
For a guy like him with the injury history that he has had, this was a different situation. The fact that he wanted to play, felt good enough to play, was cleared medically, and went out and played as hard as he did and got rewarded, I think it is great. He certainly deserves it.
On Nick Ritchie’s performance with the added responsibility in John Tavares’ absence:
I liked parts of his game. There were a couple of times offensively that he did good things. I didn’t like his penalty tonight. I thought he was huge on the power play. That goal — there were a few touches in that sequence where he makes great plays and it leads to the goal.
That is really great to see. I am sure that will give him a boost. It shows what he is capable of. He is a big guy with hands like that and can make plays. He made one in the third period to send Liljegren in. It shows the soft touch that he has.
It is a positive step for him offensively, particularly on the power play. He got that opportunity and the puck came to him. It is so important when you are playing on the first unit power play that the play doesn’t die with you. You have to be able to keep it going, make a play, and keep the play alive. He did a lot of really good things in that sequence leading up to that goal by Will.
On Kirill Semyonov’s season debut:
I really liked his game. Like our team tonight, he played hard, virtually mistake-free hockey. I have said this since the beginning of camp: Despite the language issue and not playing in the NHL — new teammates, new system, all of that — he picks things up very quickly. He played well in the AHL.
Coming here today, we had him play left wing for most of the time, which he hasn’t done a great deal of. It was just a good, clean game from him. When the puck gets on his stick, he makes a good play. He doesn’t panic with it. Defensively, he is in good spots. He works and competes. I thought we got a lot of really good shifts out of him tonight.
On Justin Holl’s performance in his return to the lineup:
I thought it took him a while to get going. I chatted with him briefly after the game. After sitting for a while, I am sure coming back in is a little bit anxious. It takes a little bit.
Defensively, I thought he was good. I thought if there was one area tonight that we want to get better in, for sure it was our breakouts. It was our touches in our own end. I thought that led to too much time in our own zone.
From a shot attempt perspective, I think we were in a pretty deep hole tonight. That is a lot of d-zone play by us and a lot of point shots by them where we gave them the puck back, they floated it to the top, and they slung it at our net. I thought our defense had some problems with that. Justin as well.
That said, we were really challenging our group to settle down, make some plays back there, and give us some good touches. Early in that third period, there were two touches that really stood out from me from Justin on the breakout that really settled us down, moved the puck to our forwards quickly under pressure, and got us on the attack.
Those plays are so important, especially when you are trying to protect the lead and especially when you want to relieve pressure. You have to make plays. We saw some really nice touches from Justin in the third period, which is what I have come to expect from him. He has that ability to make those plays, as do all of our D. We need to see more of that.
On John Tavares’ status:
He is going to remain day-to-day. He skated today. He went into the day planning to play, but the decision was made that an additional day or a couple of days — whatever it is going to be — will benefit him. But he is not far away.