Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators that improved the Leafs’ record to 11-5-1 on the season.
On the team’s performance while closing out a tidy win:
The third period, to me, was as good as we have played. We had a real good one in Philadelphia as well, but today, in terms of a lot of the things we want to do — how we use our bench, how we change, how we hold onto pucks, and spend time in the other team’s zone — it is as good as it has been.
In the first period, there were parts we didn’t like so much, but it’s a real good win for our team.
On the team’s ability to find different ways to win games:
It’s why we believe in our team and what we are capable of. It is why when things are going tough, we still believe in our group. I think we have terrific potential, great talent, and great character in our room.
We see that here of late. Sometimes, we aren’t playing at our best, but we have played really good hockey in good spots that put our team in a good place. That is why the games are closer than they should be or we give things up and we don’t feel that great about the game, but on a night like tonight, in the second half of the night, we didn’t give them much. There were one or two chances in that period where we had a couple of breakdowns, but there were a lot of good things that we will take away from the second half of the game in particular.
I thought all four lines contributed very well. The defense was great. Soupy was perfect in net. Lots of good stuff tonight.
On Kase and Kampf breaking through offensively of late:
It is great to see them get rewarded, especially for two guys that I honestly don’t think care if they score. They know what they need to do and bring for the team. These guys don’t cut corners at all. Those are the guys you want to see get rewarded.
They deserve it. They generate chances. They’re good players. They hold onto the puck. They are not only diligent defensively but they do great things. Pierre has done a good job on that line with those guys as well.
I was excited when we added both of them. Obviously, with Kase, the question was the health, right? We had to be very smart and take it slowly with him. Just look at how he plays — he is certainly comfortable and has pushed past anything that has held him back before.
Both guys are just bringing tremendous value to our team.
On the value Kampf and Kase provide defensively:
It is just tremendous, especially with the way our team is with the top two lines. In the past, we have had to really lean on them also in defensive situations. In the past, they have had to take a lot of defensive-zone faceoffs — Auston and John both — and play against the other team’s best players a lot, which they still do and still will — it’s natural if you want to get your guys 20+ minutes — but there are times when you don’t have to force them back onto the ice because one of the other team’s top lines is coming. You can give them a little extra break and then get them advantages on the other side when the other team has to play their depth players.
It is great for us, particularly with the personalities that they have. These guys are just here to serve the team and help the team win. They have tremendous value and have brought tremendous value to us. It is nice to see them get rewarded of late.
I can feel it on our bench and in our room that our players recognize what they are bringing to our team, whether they score or not. They see the importance of it. Those guys have been terrific.
On whether he is surprised by Kase buying into his assignment:
I wasn’t overly familiar with his personality and the type of person that he was. From the work that I had done to watch him play on video and some of the calls I had made, in terms of his skill set, the common thing that kept coming back is how much he works and competes.
He has scored 20 goals in the league. He can score. He has that skill set. But he plays hard. You can just see it in the way he skates — he digs into the ice, he is pushing, and he is giving it everything that he’s got. That shot block at the end of the period — he is emptying the tank.
I saw some of those traits in there. That is why I thought, even though it is a bit of a different skill set, it could be a good match with Kampf in that sense and those two could be a good pair for us.
Like we saw the other night, I think Kase can move around the lineup for us, but it is a nice pair. It helps that they just so happen to be best friends as well before even getting here. That has served us well, too.
On winning eight of 11 at home:
That is important. With the schedule and how it has worked out, we have played more at home than on the road. Being good here has been important. Obviously, the road games are going to start to pile up here, and we want to be good there, too. But when you are home, you want to have great efforts and results with the fans behind you. Generating positivity when you are on home ice and winning our share of games has been very good.
On the plan for Kyle Clifford:
I haven’t fully talked to Kyle Dubas after the game about it. My understanding is that he is going to join the Marlies tomorrow. He hasn’t played much this season. He was on the Covid list for a while there and missed a good period of time. He has only played two games this season. My understanding is that he is going to go down to the Marlies and get himself up and running.
I think it is just a tremendous add for our team into the organization with a guy who now has the flexibility to move up and down. I have come to really respect Cliff, who he is as a person, and what he has accomplished in the league. We would’ve liked to have seen him return to us a season ago, but having him back in the organization now, I think it will be a very welcoming group if and when he gets with us. I believe over time, he will find his way here.
Just the fact that he is in our organization, adding to our depth — it is a positive thing for us.
On Campbell’s third shutout of the season in the 100th game of his career:
He is consistent is what we are finding here. Coming into the season, that was the question, right? Can he do it again as the number-one guy and play more frequently? As it turns out, there hasn’t been the partner we needed to have there with Petr’s situation, but Jack has remained consistent and solid.
The guys were not perfect tonight — there were times we had people in behind us, and we have to clean that up — but Jack made saves. The posts were on his side tonight as well. He has just been consistent and reliable. Pucks are hitting him in the chest more frequently than not. He is hanging onto them.
He has been quite consistent. He has been confident. As a result, our team confidence is real high as well. It is a huge part of our team’s success here of late.
On the search for the right fit on the left wing of the Matthews-Marner line:
It is important for sure. That is an important role. They are two good players. They are important minutes. You’re going to play against tough matchups. Obviously, we are giving Ritchie an opportunity here today. We are going to stick with that a little bit.
We knew that was going to be something to look at. Alex Kerfoot has established himself as a guy we can pair really well no matter what role we put him in. He has spent most of his time with Tavares and has done a really nice job there. We are happy with that.
Whether it is Bunting, Kase… We haven’t seen Ilya Mikheyev yet this season, and he was a guy who had a tremendous camp and preseason for us. We were really excited about where he was at before his injury. We have some things to sort through there, but right now, it is Ritchie’s opportunity. We are looking to give him the chance to take hold of it. It hasn’t happened here quite yet, but we are going to stay with it and see what we can get out of it.
We believe we have some options there, but we knew coming in it was going to be something… not unlike last season when we started with some options there and it didn’t go the way we wanted it to, so we ended up making the switch with Hyman in that spot. We have some different guys throughout the lineup that we haven’t quite used in that space yet, but we will see how things go here with Ritchie for the time being.