Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-1 win over the San Jose Sharks that extended the Leafs’ road winning streak to six games and improved their record to 15-6-1 on the season.
On the team’s performance:
I thought the guys worked hard today. I thought we were really good in key moments. Obviously, we got a big-time play from both John and Will early in the game to get us up one. We had a huge goal in response to giving up one to go up 2-1.
A great sequence that leads to the Matthews goal to get it to 3-1, and it was just a clinical power play to get us to 4-1. There were really key moments where we were really good, but in general, I didn’t think we were very good with our game at five-on-five.
Our penalty killing was good and our goaltending good, but our game at five-on-five didn’t look anything like it has looked like of late. I don’t blame our approach or our mindset or anything like that. The game was a lot quicker and a lot more open than we would like it to be or it has been in our recent games. We led for virtually the entire game, which creates some interesting or challenging dynamics to manage.
In terms of our work, our results, and being very good at key moments, those were all very good things for us. To win 4-1 in a game that I didn’t think we were very good in is a really great sign.
On picking up a third win in three starts from Joe Woll:
It is huge. You need to have that. Jack Campbell can’t play every game. It is a long season. We need to be able to give him opportunities to rest. Today, giving him the night off allowed us to give him the full day off yesterday from the ice. Between yesterday and today, it is a great opportunity for him, and it will pay dividends — we believe — over time.
It is huge for the team. It is huge for the confidence of Joe Woll and him as a developing prospect for us. It is huge for our team as well that we can overcome whatever situation we are in. As long as we play well as a team, you can support a young goalie, give him help, and all of that.
I think Joe has played very well here. That sequence in the third period was outstanding — his best sequence that he has had here. At the same time, our team has done a good job of helping him out.
I think that is what good teams do. You are dealt tough circumstances when you lose a goaltender, and you have to give your starting guy some time off. You have to play well and give that young guy support. We have done that very well. Joe has dealt with it well as well. Lots of good things there for sure.
On the power play coming through with the 4-1 insurance goal:
We talked this morning about the pressure San Jose was going to come with. I thought Spencer Carberry did an unbelievable job in preparing our team for that pressure today. It is then up to the players to execute, and they executed at an extremely high level.
When you have a good plan executed at that level, that is the result it should get. It was really great to see our players respond in that way at an important time. The penalty kill has done its job. You get a power play. It is our only one of the game to that point, it is a 4-1 game, and you get a chance to stretch it to 4-1. It is a huge moment for our team. For them to execute at that level at that time, it is great stuff.
That is what we need from those guys, and that is exactly what they delivered today. It is moments like that which deliver us the win today despite us not having our best.
On whether the team’s defensive play is included in the “not very good” assessment:
When I talk about the fact that we didn’t play well as a team… In a lot of our season, we have spent a ton of time in the offensive zone. We have had the puck a lot. We have really been in control of play. In the game, it didn’t happen tonight.
I thought the game was really back and forth. I thought we really got stalled a lot. Give San Jose credit; they didn’t allow us to really establish and sustain offense. On the other side of it, I don’t think we gave up — aside from some sequences there — really high-end, Grade-A chances.
Our guys did defend well. I have no issues with the effort of our team or how we competed today. It is just the way our game went. We have come to expect our team to have the ability to control games more so than just the scoreboard in terms of what is happening shift-to-shift.
I don’t think tonight was one of those games for us. There are not going to be a lot of things we can pull out of this game that are going to be positive in terms of looking like what we want to look like, but I thought the guys competed hard enough and defended hard enough to support our goalie. When we had our breakdowns, he was there for us.
That, combined with the strong penalty killing and being really strong in key moments, is the difference in us getting the result tonight.