Sheldon Keefe spoke to the media after his team’s 10-7 win over the Detroit Red Wings that improved the Leafs’ record to 34-14-4 on the season.
On whether he has been involved in a game this crazy before:
Not quite like that, no.
On how he assesses the team’s performance:
I thought we played an excellent game. Let’s not let the craziness of the third period take away from the fact that we played an excellent game. Even in the third period, within all of that nonsense, there was the way Mikheyev responded on his goal. That line scored us a huge goal there. There was the way the penalty kill responded in a key moment.
The craziness of the period is going to get the focus and the attention, but our guys played a really good game today. You go into a third period, and you really just want to get out of there. All of a sudden, they throw a floater at the net and it goes in. They get life. They get a couple more just like that, and it changes things.
Things changed quickly there, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that our guys played a really good game tonight.
On the decision to pull Jack Campbell:
It is a difficult call because I am putting Petr Mrazek in a horrible spot. If there has ever been a time when a goalie knew for sure he would not be going into a game, that would probably be the one. All of a sudden, he is having to go in.
I am sure he was pretty much already on the plane in his mind. All of a sudden, he has to go into a crazy game. It was a tough spot to put him in.
I thought it was important to make that change at that time. It was a crazy period that will get a lot of attention because it doesn’t happen. I am confident it won’t happen again. I am going to focus on the fact that we did a ton of good things today.
On Campbell’s play tonight:
Jack has to be better. That goal to start the period is a nothing play, really. It is a routine save that he can make there. He doesn’t, and it kind of snowballs from there. That is a tough one that he has to have — and he will have.
The key for us is to take the positives out of this game tonight and feel good about the fact that we pushed back and got the win for both Petr and Jack. Jack, in particular, has been there so many times for our team and done a great job for us. We had to do a good job for him here today.
Both of the goalies, in particular Jack, will wash this one here today. No pun intended, but we will go off to Washington and move on.
On Mitch Marner’s six-point game:
That line was pretty much unstoppable tonight. Great to see Mitch get some goals there again and start heating back up. That line was outstanding.
I thought each line contributed greatly today. Willy got us started in the game. The guys were rolling pretty good from there.
Crazy third period, but that is not the focus for me in the game. If anything, I liked the way that our guys handled that. You don’t lose the game, you don’t let them tie it, and in fact, you push back. You get the adversity of the penalty kill. I don’t know how many kills we had tonight, but there were no power plays.
Special teams have a chance to be a real factor in the game, and we turned out to be plus-one in a key moment. It is a one-goal game where they have all of the momentum, and our PK guys just stay calm, march it down the rink, and put it in the net. That is big-time stuff, whether it is 8-7, 2-1, or 3-2, that is the response you want from your guys in those moments.
That is what I am taking away from tonight.
On the team’s response on the bench as the game nearly spiraled on them:
You are on the bench and you can tell guys are a little dumbfounded, frankly, about what is happening. But you are just trying to tell them that we just have to go out and play.
Adversity comes in different forms. It doesn’t always or most often doesn’t look like it did tonight, but that is its own form of adversity for us as a team. We could’ve folded. We could’ve let them tie the game or maybe lose this game here today.
Instead of that, when push came to shove, our team rose up and made big plays to win the game. I take that as nothing but positive.
On the new defense pairings:
I thought it worked really well. We were in such control of the game, so maybe we didn’t get a great sense of it, but we did it mainly to maintain the lefty-righty balance. That was the main motivation to it. I thought the guys moved the puck well. I thought there were a lot of good things there. The Brodie-Holl pairing did a good job.
On the challenge against Washington on Monday:
They are a veteran team. They know how to play and how to win. They are going to play hard, be competitive, and all of those kinds of things. It will be my first time facing the Washington Capitals. That will be a first for me.
Preparations are going on behind the scenes. I haven’t seen them much, obviously, and I have not coached against them. We will be prepared. If we continue to play the way we have these last three games, we will be okay.