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

Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils that improved the Leafs’ record to 40-18-5 on the season.

On Petr Mrazek’s performance:

I thought he looked really good. I thought he looked calm and confident. Tough game. You only get a few shots in the first period — not a lot of work. A couple of the shots he got were tough saves there. And then, all of a sudden, in the second period, things turned. There were a lot more really good looks for him. I thought he looked really good. I thought it was a great step for him.

On Mark Giordano’s debut:

You talk about his comfort level… My comfort level was high when he was out there. The puck got on his stick and things seem to settle down. You can just tell that he is a veteran. He knows how to play. Despite coming into new teammates, a new city, and a new system, he is just confident, moving pucks, defending, and getting in people’s way. I really liked his play tonight.

On what makes the team’s penalty kill such a threat:

Speed. Tenacity. It is a pressure kill. We are applying pressure. We are putting people in bad spots. Our guys anticipate very well. Those are all things that Dean talks about. It is the instincts of the players and the speed to close quickly, and then the skill level to make plays and finish plays.

It was obviously huge today. We gave up one officially on the kill, but really, it was two. I don’t think Auston was back in the play when the second one went in, but those are two huge goals shorthanded to make up for it.

Shorthanded goals are big momentum swingers. Engvall’s goal — a double minor with 7.5 or 8 minutes left there in a tie game… The team is in a tough spot there, and the PK was excellent. I don’t know if we gave up a scoring chance, and then we had a couple of our own and made good on one.

I really liked that. It made up for the fact that our power play was obviously not good tonight.

On the team’s defensive play in front of Petr Mrazek:

I thought we defended well. There were times in the second period when it opened up a little bit. That New Jersey team has a ton of skill. When Hughes gets the puck on his stick, the game is slowing down, and he is finding ways to make plays and find people. They have a number of other guys, too, that make plays and settle the game down.

I thought they had the puck on their sticks a little bit too much in the second, but I thought we defended well as a group. There weren’t a whole lot of shots coming at our net. One of the things that these guys do really well is their rush play — leaving their own zone, the odd-man rushes, and things like that. That was a real focus for us tonight. I don’t think we gave up any of that kind of thing. That was really good and important.

Offensively, for us, we didn’t have enough going on tonight. They defended really well themselves. They took away our rush play and defended their zone very well. It was hard to get pucks moving. On pucks off of the wall and all of that, they competed well today as a team.

This was one that could go either way. I am glad it worked out for us.

On giving Mark Giordano the opening shift and whether it is a nice gesture or a way to get the team going:

I think it is a bit of both. It is a bit of a welcome home for him. It is an opportunity for the fans to acknowledge him. As much as he has come in here to play for the Leafs and all of that, he is also a local guy that has had a really accomplished career.

I think it is a really special moment. I am not surprised our fans recognized that. We have a very intelligent fan that knows what is happening and acknowledged that. I was happy he had that moment.

On Colin Blackwell’s game:

I thought he worked. He shows what he is going to be. He worked and competed. I thought there were a couple of shifts where that line had some real energy and some opportunities heading towards their net. On the power play and penalty kill, I thought he looked real comfortable there.

I thought it was good for him. He is a guy who is going to get better each time out and it is going to take him a little while here. He is obviously not as established as a player [as Giordano]. He has moved around quite a bit in his career. He has found a new home now.  I think he is going to continue to get better.

I liked pieces of his game tonight.