Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-0 win over the Dallas Stars that improved the Leafs’ record to 38-17-5 on the season.
On Erik Källgren shutout performance:
I thought he was great. He continued where he left off in terms of not trying to do too much in the net. He was solid. The pucks came to him, and for the most part, they stuck to him.
I thought our team played really well in front of him. Probably the toughest save that he had was the first one. Right away in the game, he has to take a 2-on-1 with a clear shooter. He stands his ground and makes that save.
From there, he was just solid. A lot of the saves were stuff from the perimeter and stuff like that. He made sure that if pucks came to him, they just stuck to him. He settled our team down there.
On the difference in the team’s performance tonight:
I thought we played really patiently to start the game, first of all. It took us a while to get our first shot on goal there. We just stayed with it. We told our group coming in that this game was going to require a level of patience both in terms of how we defended and also offensively. Dallas doesn’t give you much. You have to really work for your chances.
There is usually a process that goes on in terms of managing the puck and breaking them down. The chances come, and that is how it worked out. Our first shot was a goal. I thought we earned that one in terms of how we moved the puck.
The patience level early was big. Shift over shift, line over line, the guys just played with a lot of intelligence and composure throughout the game and managed the puck well. Obviously, we got a lead early — somewhat early in the game — and that helped us.
And the way that Erik played in terms of being calm and making saves when the pucks came to him… You know, just giving the puck to the linesman and getting ready for the next one. It gave the group confidence in the way that he played. There were a lot of guys pulling for him and feeling good. There were a couple of tips there in the first period where he made it seem easy. Guys really fed off of that.
On the importance of stability in net:
It is huge. It is a hard game to play when you are pulling the puck out of your net all the time, right? It becomes a real challenge. The players on the ice are questioning yourself, and you maybe make a mistake somewhere on the ice where you are a little more nervous.
Goaltending played a huge part today, but we have been talking about it so much. Even when our goaltenders have had some tough days, the players in front of him have a major and massive responsibility to do a good job in front of whoever is in the net.
I look at how our team has played at the times when Joe Woll is in there. I look at how we played tonight. That is what we are capable of doing. We are capable of rallying around a situation, whether it is Erik being in the net or Auston not playing. Whatever it is, we have that capability of putting together a really nice, responsible game. We did that here today.
On how to harness this kind of performance moving forward:
It is a challenge. Every opponent presents a different challenge. That in and of itself is different. Carolina is going to come in here on Thursday. Obviously, that is going to be a far different and difficult challenge. The opponents have a say in it as well. You have to learn to like it and trust it.
Obviously, playing with a lead helps a great deal. In terms of how we played and managed the penalty kills to start the second period, those were terrific kills by us at a time when the game could’ve swung in the other direction. I don’t know if we gave up a meaningful shot on those PKs.
On a power play to start the third, we had a chance to bring it to a three-goal lead, and the guys executed. A lot of good things today.
On John Tavares’ game on the top line:
He carried forward how he played in the outdoor game. He skated well. He moved the puck well. He made plays. Obviously, he is around the net, where he does a lot of his damage on his goal. I thought he was good. I thought the line was good.
On the Rielly-Lyubushkin pairing:
It was really good. I would say we will stay with that. Those guys were good. I would have to watch the whole game back, but those guys, I thought, did a really good job.
Brodie and Holl did a really good job and saw a lot of time against a very good Hintz, Pavelski, and Robertson line. Those guys were great. Brodie – Holl and the Kampf line saw a lot of time against those guys. It is a really good line that has been having a lot of success. Those guys didn’t give them a sniff tonight.
On whether Erik Källgren will get a few more starts going forward now:
Let’s let the paint dry on this one a little bit. No matter who is in goal for us, we have the ability and responsibility to do a job in front of him and make life easy.
I don’t know what the scoring chances or expected goals are going to look like today, but it is as good as it has been in a real long time for us defensively. The goalie plays a part in that with a lot of stuff sticking to him. When they were buzzing a little bit, those chances ended.
The players were really committed today. We have that ability as a group. It is just a matter of trusting it, staying with it, and starting to get the positivity and good vibes going again. That will carry its way all the way through, I believe, no matter who is in net.
Certainly, the way Erik played today gives us confidence, and I am sure he gains his own confidence that he is starting to feel like maybe he can play in the league. That’s what you want. You want goalies pushing.
We have Joe Woll sitting back with the Marlies, and he did a good job when he was here, too. That is what you want. We are going to get Jack healthy, Petr is going to find his game, and our guys are going to continue to trust the way we played in front of him tonight.
On the Brodie-Holl pairing meshing well:
They are both good players. They are both good defenders. Brodie has been moved back to his strong side. That has really helped with the lefty-righty thing. Puck distribution, making plays, and things like that become a little bit easier. Hollsy has defended really well and has been physical.
It has been a good, responsible pair. Brodie tends to have that effect on guys that he plays with. It has been nice. Really from the time they got put together in their first game, they seemed to do a good job, and they have continued with it.