Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 2-1 overtime win over the Calgary Flames that improved the Leafs’ record to 9-5-1 on the season.
On the team’s performance:
You kind of felt it going into the third period at 0-0. We had a few power plays. We had a number of chances where we were virtually in alone on the goaltender and had nothing to show for it. You felt like it was shaping up to be the perfect road game for Calgary, which is really what it was all the way through. You just felt like it was going to take one break for them. We had to score quickly, and we weren’t able to do that.
I certainly like the way we stuck with it. We finally got one to go.
On whether this is the best ever version of William Nylander:
I have been getting this question a lot. Will has been playing really well. He has been producing for us a lot. I think Will has another level to get to. His production is great — really good, right where we want it to be, and he is producing a lot of chances — but there are still other areas of his game we would like to see him be better in.
That is all the way through our lineup. We have better — all of our best guys. Will has produced at a really great clip, and that is ultimately what we really need from him, but there are other areas of his game he can be better at.
Is this the best I have seen him? No, it is not.
On where Nylander can find another level still:
Being more consistent, all the time. He can control the game when he gets the puck and is moving his feet. When he is in control, he is as good as anybody in the league. He is capable of doing that all of the time, is what I believe. The production has been great. The way he is generating offense and chances has been really good. I think he can get even better.
I am not satisfied. I hope and I know Will is not. I know he has great expectations of himself. As long as I have been here as the coach, whenever I talk to Will, he has regarded himself as one of the top players in the league. I am going to continue to push him to get there.
Offensively, the way that he is generating chances and is getting behind the defense, generating shots, scoring at key times… It looks like Kase got a touch on that one [tonight], which is good news for the coach. A lot of what we talked about throughout the game was to get to the net and get some redirects, tips, and stuff like that. But Will has scored huge goals for us and has come through for us at key moments. Today was one of those again here.
I think it is really important for all of our players. I think we are at seven [wins] in the last eight, but we are not even close to satisfied here. All of our guys have better, and our team has better.
On the team’s ability to find a way in tight, low-scoring, grind-it-out games:
It is getting there. It certainly was not there earlier in the season. We felt we needed to score every shift early in the season. We are settling in here now to the realization that it takes time. You have to be patient. We can’t open ourselves up defensively. I thought we did a good job here today of protecting Soup and not giving them a whole lot of really clean looks. There was some activity there for sure. In the third period, obviously, there was the goal and a couple of opportunities we want to do a better job of. But I think our team is more comfortable in those spots.
The other night in Philly, we said we had to go into the third period with the mind set that we can win 1-0. We can play like that. I believe when you ahve that mindset, the chances come, the opportunities come, and all of a sudden, it becomes, 2-0, 3-0, 4-0, and you run away with it. That is really where we want to be.
Today, at 0-0, I talked to our team. I certainly knew Calgary was going to be comfortable playing in that game at 0-0. They were on the road in a back-to-back. They love to keep scores really close. They lead the league in shutouts, I believe. A big part of their identity is just doing their thing in that environment. We had to be comfortable there as well, but at the same time, be pushing to get the win. They scored first, which we clearly did not like. The fact that we were able to get it all square and give ourselves a chance to compete for the second point is big for us.
On the team’s ability to find a way in a game like this:
Especially to start the game in the first period, I thought we had some really good moments and didn’t give up a whole lot. There were a couple of sequences where they had multiple shots and multiple things happening at our net. I thought, for the most part, we didn’t have any real dips in the game, and we didn’t hurt ourselves. We had more than enough chances to score first in the game and get on the power play, which was not as good today as it has been.
At 5-on-5, some of our best people were in alone with clean looks at the goalie. The goalie was really good tonight. It was on us to make things a little more difficult for him in the third period. I still don’t think we did that enough, but as it turns out, you get a seam-pass one-timer with traffic, you get a stick on it, and it redirects it in. That is usually what it takes on a night when the goalie is really feeling it.
On the decision to start Joseph Woll tomorrow in Buffalo:
I think the big thing is that as an organization, we really believe in him. We believe in his talent. In an ideal world, you want him to really get rolling with the Marlies and really work to develop himself over the course of the season. As it turns out now, there is an opportunity now.
He has played well through camp. He has worked extremely hard. It has been a while now, but he is coming off of an outstanding last start for the Marlies in his last game action. He has had more than enough time to practice with us.
I told him three or four days ago he was going to be getting the start tonight. He has had more than enough opportunity to prepare. It is a big night for him.
I think the big thing is that our organization really believes in him and his talent. Sometimes things come because you have really earned it and established yourself at the AHL level. Sometimes it happens because someone gets hurt and the opportunity is there.
Whether it is Michael Hutchinson or even Erik Kallgren — who has been down there and has done a good job with the Marlies — we had some decisions to make there. Joe is a third-year pro with us now. It is a good chance for him.