Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs post game
Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs post game

Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes that improved the Leafs’ record to 39-17-5 on the season.

On the team’s performance:

I liked a lot about it. It took us a little while to get going in our game. We figured that would be the case with the way Carolina is on top of you. They don’t give you a lot of time to move the puck or anything like that. Offensively, we knew it was going to take a little while, not unlike Dallas.

Defensively, I didn’t like some of the things we did early in the game. We gave up a couple of odd-man rushes early that kind of opened the game up a little bit for them and allowed them to get some chances and shots.

I thought we really found our game in the back half of the first period and certainly the second period. The second period went really well for us.

Once again, just like Dallas, there were a lot of really good things in the third period. That is two games in a row now where we went into the third period with the lead and out-chanced the opponent — against two real good teams. That is a nice job by our guys.

On the special week Erik Källgren is having:

You would think it would be natural for him to get caught up in it and be overly excited, but I am not sure I have seen him smile yet. Like we talked about, it just speaks to his demeanour. All of that plays into how this has gone for him. He is not getting eaten up by the moment and opportunity.

He is confident in himself. He feels as though he is prepared. He is just trusting his abilities. That is what I see. It has been great. He has been even-keeled all the way through this. As you know, it is not easy to do. It is even more difficult in this city — two home games and all of that.

It has been impressive. I thought our guys again tonight defended really well, but we gave him a couple of chances early in the first period. There was that one big chance in the second where we kicked his leg out. Those are game-changing or game-saving saves. They make a major difference and allow our team to find themselves and get going.

He was terrific.

On the importance of a third line he can trust:

There is no doubt it is huge. It is huge for us. David Kampf’s addition to our team has been massive, and Kase as well, of course. We have found something really nice here with Mikheyev and Engvall with Kampf. They have been great.

You can slot them in and we can talk about them however you want, but I am playing those guys as much as anybody at even strength. I have that level of confidence in them.

Carolina, when you play them, have that line — the Staal line — that is not only great defensively, but Staal has the ability to really wear on opponents and they also score a great deal. As a trio, those three guys, of all of their four lines coming into the game, have the most five-on-five goals.

I made the decision today to play Kampf against them — bigger guy, he can’t wear on JT or Kerf, and we could go with that head-to-head and allow the other two guys to play against Aho and Trocheck.

Whatever it is, I can really utilize them that way. Last game, they were playing against the Hintz, Pavelski, and Robertson line. It creates a lot of opportunities for us to get really good matchups and good minutes.

On the team’s patience offensively:

We had talked about how it is going to be hard. You have to adjust to this game. When you are playing against Carolina, it is not the same as it is against a lot of other opponents. A level of patience in our game was going to be required. I wasn’t overly concerned with the fact that we didn’t have a lot of shots or anything — in fact, we talked about how there are some benefits to not letting the goaltender on the other side get into the game and get comfortable.

On our side, we gave up some chances, and Kallgren didn’t have a choice. He was in the game. We tightened up a little bit. They had nine shots in the first period that came from the blue line. That really let our goalie get really comfortable in the game.

We just had to stay with it and plug some of the holes defensively. I felt that our chances would come, and when they did, maybe we could catch Fred on the other side not as comfortable in the game. That worked to our benefit here today.

My focus through that first period was not on the shots on goal for us generating. It was more that we needed to tone down what we were giving up against. They were getting too many there. I thought we did a really good job of that the rest of the way.

In the second period, we were really good in that area. On some of our best chances we had in the game, we didn’t even get a shot. We missed the net a bunch.

The patience and the commitment for our guys — they just stayed with it, did what they needed to do defensively, and got great saves when we needed them. I am really proud of the group.

On whether this style of opponent has given the team fits in the past:

I think they give every team fits. That is why they are who they are in the league. Against that opponent, when you are not getting your touches and looks offensively, you can start to cheat a little bit and start to force things. That is what we are really trying to get our guys to be patient with. I think our guys are sorting that out and getting comfortable in these situations.

On the team taking its 12th bench minor for too-many-men:

We had one earlier in the third period that we got away with, actually. Some of the issues are popping up with some of the defensemen changing. We have one guy coming off, and two guys are jumping.

The players have to be more aware and alert in that. We have to do a better job as coaches to make them aware and give them no choice in the matter. We just have to be more alert because it is unacceptable. It has now reached the point of embarrassment. We have to do better.

As much as I was happy with win today, that is on the top of my list to talk about with the team. We have talked about it along the way, but enough is enough.

On Ilya Lyubushkin’s game tonight:

I thought he battled. He did what he’s done here. I thought he was really good, really physical. I liked a lot about his game.

I thought our defense did a really good job of protecting our net tonight. Some of their best looks came as a result of us either losing the puck for some quick transitions or just losing our F3 and they came at us quickly. Any time we had numbers, our D kept things to the outside and boxed out well. I don’t know if they tipped a puck all night long. That is one of the top teams in the NHL at deflecting pucks.

There was a lot to like about how our whole defense played tonight. We have come to expect Boosh to compete and battle every night. Guys are responding on the bench to it. It is great to see.