Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 5-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks that improved the Leafs’ record to 19-8-2 on the season.
On the team’s performance:
It was the same story that it has been here: Too many chances against, too many freebies, and too many guys in behind us. Same issues that were hurting us when we weren’t winning games early in the season.
The fact that we won tonight is a good thing; we obviously got a fortunate bounce there, but we won the game on special teams and goaltending and got outplayed pretty badly at 5v5.
On Petr Mrazek’s performance:
I thought he competed hard, looked good, and made a lot of big saves. I am sure those two long ones he wants to have back, but he made a number of high-end saves that could’ve been goals. When it was 4-1 for a good chunk of that second period, I thought it could’ve been a tie game with the level of chances we were giving up.
That is a good effort by him, and the fact that he gets out of it feeling good from a health perspective is even better.
On whether the team was cheating for offense:
I have to watch it all back. I don’t want to necessarily use the word cheating because I don’t think that is necessarily the case. I just think we are out of sync. There are some pucks that we are forcing into the middle and we are playing against a team that is playing a very conservative game defensively, holding the middle of the rink and waiting for you to force pucks in there before they turn on it and go.
I didn’t like how we adapted to that. I thought the lines that did adapt to that… The Engvall, Clifford, Steeves line as an example; they didn’t bother playing in the middle of the ice because there was nothing there, and they just put things to the bottom and played deep in the offensive zone. They scored a huge goal but also had a number of good offensive-zone shifts for us.
I didn’t like how we didn’t adapt, especially our top lines and our better players. They are still trying to make plays in there that aren’t available. I don’t like that.
In terms of the chances against, we are just out of sync again. Our defense going down on the walls, and our forwards reloading above — we are not making good reads in those plays. At times, pucks are behind us, and we get defensemen beat.
If you look at the third goal, Rubins is beat but he is recovering. Holl comes over to try to double up and help out his partner, and that exposes the middle. Little things like that are fundamental plays where we are out of sync and not getting it right.
On reducing Kristians Rubins’ ice time as the game went on:
I thought between that one — the third goal — the first goal, and the penalty, there were a number of things happening in behind Rubins tonight that were problematic. Late in the game, you are trying to give a young guy a break in that sense and relying on the more experienced players in that situation. We are just out of sync in those situations. We have to get it dialed in here quickly.
On whether the team could benefit from going out on the road for a reset:
I am hopeful. Our last extended Western trip for the four-game swing was our best segment of hockey we played this season. We certainly need more of that. We are going to Edmonton to start. If we play a game like that and give up that quality of chances against that team, it will be a long night.
On whether he is surprised by the power-play success without Mitch Marner:
Not necessarily. We still have lots of talent out there. I think I am surprised by just the level we have executed on. Those are not going to be sustainable numbers, but we have played with tons of confidence — not just tonight but other nights. We have scored really early, too, and haven’t had to use a whole lot of time. The puck has gone in for us really quickly.
It has really helped us with confidence. Kase has filled in really nice there as a right shot who can take some of the Marner situations. He is helping us on entries the way Mitch does. That group hasn’t missed a beat. In fact, it has had an uptick.