Sheldon Keefe spoke to the media after his team’s 6-4 win over the Seattle Kraken that improved the Leafs’ record to 37-16-4 on the season.
On another rollercoaster game ending in a win:
Obviously, I’m disappointed that we gave up the lead. That is obviously not what we want. We have to do a better job of that clearly.
I liked the fact that we just kept playing and found a way to win the game. We made big plays. We made a big play to tie the game and a big play on the power play by Mitch to get us the lead.
Once we had the lead in the third period, I liked a lot about how we played from that point on, particularly the last eight or so minutes. I thought we did a really good job in the neutral zone. I don’t know that we gave up a scoring chance, really, from that point on. I liked that part of it when it was time to dig in there.
Right now, what we are trying to fix is having that level of commitment and discipline in the second period when we have those leads. It is more challenging in the second period. There is a lot of game left. You are still trying to establish the game. The game itself is more wide open with the nature of the long changes and stuff like that. That is an area of focus for us going forward for sure.
In both nights here, playing in a back-to-back here and having to come back in the game in the third period, it is a good job by our group.
On the opportunity to improve in those areas with 25 games still to go:
It is a long season, right? Different things pop up at different times that become trends. You want to plug one hole over here, and then usually something else pops up. We are looking to plug as many holes as we can.
I liked the fact that our team, once again in that situation, calmly gathered itself and went out and won a hockey game.
On Mitch Marner’s comment that there is always a sense of belief that the team can come back:
It is no secret who we have on our bench. We have weapons where if the game is in striking distance, we have difference makers. That gives us reason for belief.
We also believe that we can go out and establish our game early in games and gain control, which we have done a lot this season. If you are going to be that team, you have to be the team that can manage the game from that point and not let them come back, get life, feel good about themselves, and all of that.
There is no doubt we believe we can win any type of game no matter what the score is or what is happening. We have a good group — a deep group — and we have game-breakers.
On Matthews’ second goal and whether he thinks about how it’s something we’ll still be watching 10 years from now:
I as a coach look at it probably one or two steps before. His linemates made some good plays to keep pucks alive and win a loose puck. He gets into space and it is a great finish. It is a no-doubter type of finish.
We are at the point where it is hard to be surprised by what Auston does — as many goals as he has scored, the types of goals that he has scored, and the time in the game. He is a special player.
We are lucky to have him as part of our group. It is great to see him succeed as much as he has. He puts high expectations on himself to be a difference-maker. Clearly, he has been that.
On Jack Campbell’s performance:
It was a tough game for Jack to play tonight. We made it tough on him. The first goal is a tough one. It hits a skate and bounces to a guy. He didn’t really see it. The second and third ones are on the rush — back door type of stuff.
Once again, we got beat back to our net, didn’t box out, and didn’t block a shot. The fourth goal gets tipped. Once again, that is not good enough on our part.
In the times when there were clear shots and our guys did do a good job around him, I thought he was really good in those areas. That is what we need from him. We have come to expect Jack to have the ability to make game-changing types of saves. He was doing that earlier. He will get back to that.
We have to do a better job on those goals — in particular, the ones in the second period.
On what the team needs to address defensively:
I thought in both games — yesterday and today — we did a better job in front of our net. This team here today has struggled to get results this season, but that is a good team over there. They play hard. Hak has them playing hard and structured.
It is one of the top defensive teams in the NHL if you look at a lot of their stats. They don’t give up very much as a group. Offensively, they capitalize and they spend time in your zone. They get moving. They get pucks delivered to the net.
It presents some challenges. I thought we did a better job today, but you crack for a second, and all of a sudden, a guy gets to the net and a puck gets free. There are little pieces there for us to be the team we want to be. We want to be more consistent in that area. We can’t crack there.
We have done a better job. The shorthanded goal and the second goal they scored off the rush in the second period notwithstanding, I thought we did a really good job against the rush again today. There was not a whole lot of stuff happening where they are getting in behind us, but it is not perfect. We are trying to get as close to perfect as we can be. We are going to continue to work at that.
On Jason Spezza sitting out:
Just a healthy scratch today. I thought it was a good opportunity for us to give him a night off with Kase being available today. We wanted to get him back in today. I think Nick Robertson has done a good job and has earned an opportunity to stay in the lineup. It just made sense to give Spezz the day here today.
On the pre-game ceremony for Wayne Simmonds’ 1,000th game:
You can’t help but feel a connection to that journey. His family is out there. You are watching the video. You are just kind of seeing the journey and the impact that he has made in the community here. You can’t help but feel the pride that he has to be a Maple Leaf at this point in his career. That is what really touched me watching it.
It is a special moment. It is hard to play in this league. It is hard to make this league and play one game in it, let alone get to 1,000. As we have talked about, there are not many easy games for Wayne Simmonds. It hasn’t been an easy journey.
For him to have that moment out there with his family and young kids was terrific.