Sheldon Keefe of the Toronto Maple Leafs
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Sheldon Keefe spoke to the media after his team’s 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild that improved the Leafs’ record to 33-14-4 on the season.

On the team’s defensive effort:

I thought it was really solid and really disciplined. I thought we were committed to it. It was a very low-event hockey game; not the most exciting game for sure. Our guys, I thought, just stayed committed to it. They tried to find ways to crack through offensively.

We weren’t great today offensively. Give Minnesota credit for how they competed and how they played. We have been challenging our guys to be more committed defensively and more focused on it.

The fact that we stayed disciplined in this type of game where there is not a lot happening offensively is really good for our group. Love to see us get rewarded.

On why the game was so defensive despite the offensive abilities of the two teams:

Certainly, from our perspective, we have a ton of respect for their team over there. We played them in Minnesota. We felt what they are capable of. We know they are one of the top offensive teams in the league. They have a lot of depth. They come hard and forecheck hard. They are good in rush transition. It is a very diverse offensive group; they can do a lot of different things. We had to be really structured and really committed.

With some of that, you are going to lose a little bit of your offense. At the same time, I would imagine that they have respect for our group as well. They are a good defensive team. They play hard. They are structured as well.

Especially in the first period, we really had trouble getting through the neutral zone. They did a really good job to that. We had to adapt to that a bit. I would say it is two really good teams that have a lot of respect for each other.

With the way we have played of late, we have opened things up. That gets things a little bit more free-flowing. we didn’t do that today. It was just one of those games where you’re waiting for the opportunity for the game to pop.

Auston earned it. Unbelievable track. That is what we have been talking about: If we work defensively if we’re in good spots and you work to earn a puck and it goes the other way… That’s three goals now. If you look at the Bunting goal in Columbus or Auston’s second goal tonight, all three are the result of being in a good defensive posture, working defensively, and transitioning to offense.

On Petr Mrazek’s performance:

I thought he was really good. He got some really good looks towards the end of the game when they started to push. Really solid. It was a really good effort by him.

It shows once again, when I get questions about our goalies, why I talk so much about the responsibility of our team to do a job in front of him and allow him to get comfortable. I thought we did that as a team today, and the goaltender responded for us. A great job by Petr.

On whether he sees Matthews as worthy of Hart consideration:

Without a doubt. You look at a game like today, and there is not a whole lot happening in the game. Our team is playing a good team game. When there is not a lot happening, you need somebody to make a play and be a game-breaker.

The first goal that he scores — there is a very small number of players in the league that are going to score a goal like that. The second goal is completely earned. It is completely effort-based.

He plays more than any of our other centers and most of our forwards. He has taken on a lot of defensive responsibilities, so he is great in that area. He finds way to come through with huge goals at big times in the game. He has done that all season.

You see the commitment defensively from him. I don’t know how many pucks he stripped from behind today or broke up, but it is a high number. He doesn’t get enough credit for how he plays defensively.

On whether moving Kase up to the Tavares line had the effect he was hoping for:

I really don’t get much of a feel for it, especially with the Mikheyev situation. From that point on, I was really kind of juggling things around quite a bit. I’d have to watch some of the stuff back. I wouldn’t take a whole lot out of the game today because I don’t know how much time they actually spent as a trio.