Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 7-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets that improved the Leafs’ record to 43-19-5 on the season.
On Auston Matthews’ big milestone:
It was fun. Fans enjoyed it. It made for a great atmosphere in the third period. They were encouraging him and pushing Auston. I thought it was great.
It is good to see the fans have that moment. For Auston to have that accomplishment on home ice is great.
Maybe the best play of the day is David Kampf hitting the post and keeping the game alive for us.
On Auston Matthews’ comment that there is a lot more to accomplish this season:
He is focused. He knows what we are trying to accomplish as a team. He knows what his role is and the opportunity he has for our team. He has delivered on that all season long.
It is a great individual accomplishment for him, no doubt. As much as he will downplay it as I would expect — I know he is focused on other team-related things — I think it is important to acknowledge that is a pretty special thing.
It is a long time since a Leaf has scored 50. That in and of itself is special. There have been a lot of great players that have played here. I think it is nice that the fans were able to acknowledge this tonight and give him that moment.
Our team appreciates it, too. The team contributes to Auston’s success as well. He contributes to others’, of course, too, but it all goes hand in hand.
I am more than happy to give Auston the credit he deserves. He is having an unbelievable season.
On whether this milestone puts Matthews in the group of the greatest players the franchise has ever had:
I think he was there long before tonight. Certainly, this helps in terms of the record books and all of those kinds of things. This won’t be the last time we have the opportunity to talk about him doing something special.
On whether he was going to keep Matthews on for the rest of the game:
No, he was getting to the end of his shift, so he made it count.
On the team coming back from a 2-0 hole in the first period:
Probably the biggest thing is that we had a lot of clock left. We didn’t start at even close to the same level of intensity and speed that we played with in the last three games prior to tonight. That was disappointing, and we paid for it.
Obviously, getting the bounce to make it 2-1 coming out of the first — before they got a chance to get their third — was a big moment. And then with the time in the game, we didn’t really look back from there.
We got down on that power play, but then we struck back right away with John’s goal. That was a really good sign for me that we were going to be able to gather ourselves and find a way.
To score six tonight plus the empty netter, despite not playing particularly well, is a really good sign and a good win.
On how Pierre Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev are clicking together, including for the shorthanded goal:
It is great. They are recognizing the speed that they have and the length that they have. They close quickly. They both have long arms and long sticks to get on pucks. It was a great effort and a great play by Pierre to get it to Miky, and then for Miky to settle the puck and get a great finish… It was a great goal and a very important one.
On William Nylander scoring two goals at the front of the net on the power play:
He scores a lot from that space. Getting there is important. He can play in different spots on the power play, obviously, but with the personnel that we have, it is a good fit for him to be down there.
Teams are really aggressively closing on our flanks right now. Where Mitch and Auston are, there are not a lot of shot opportunities available there. Auston had a couple he was able to step into, but generally, there is not a lot there.
If you look at a lot of our power-play goals in recent games, it is just about getting pucks by that layer, delivering it to the net, and letting John and Will go to work there. We got another couple tonight just doing that.
On the play of the fourth line:
I was happy with it. We had lots of energy and physicality. In each period, I thought they had great shifts and great moments that really allowed the crowd to get going and give us energy.
In the first period, it was a scoring chance — a puck to the net and some traffic and rebounds — and then there was some physicality after that.
It was a tough game. They didn’t play their fourth line much, the Jets, and that made it a little harder to get them out there as much as I maybe would’ve liked to. I thought they did a good job even though some of the matchups weren’t optimal.