Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-3 overtime win over the Dallas Stars that improved the Leafs’ record to 46-19-6 on the season.
On Auston Matthews setting the franchise record for goals in a season (55) and then winning it in overtime for his 56th:
This is Auston’s night tonight. It is much deserved. To finish it with an exclamation point — I think you’d write it like that. It is pretty good.
On his message to Matthews after the goal:
Just congratulated him. I just told him it is a great accomplishment. The Leafs organization has been around a long time. It’s had a lot of great players. This is pretty special for him to be at the top of that list.
On Matthews’ 55th on the power play:
The power play wore them down. I thought Giordano was outstanding in terms of that sequence. He comes on fresh. Rielly gets off and is tired there. Gio comes out fresh and makes a few really good plays with how he distributes it at the top and then dish it back to Auston. It gets the goalie moving and creates a real good lok.
Auston had a lot of shots today and a lot of shots from the power play, but none really like that. There were a lot where he had the puck, is attacking downhill, and it is just him and the goalie from distance, but none off of the pass like that.
It is great play by Gio to set it up, and Auston was ready for it.
On a successful road trip (seven of eight points):
This is a tough road trip with the four games and moving around here coming out to Dallas to finish it off. It is a good team that is playing good hockey. They play especially good in this building. They are fighting for their playoff place. For us to get two points here tonight is good.
I thought it was a game that we had to be very patient in. We had that sense going in — not unlike when we played in Toronto against them. It took us a while to really get going. They defend well and play a very patient game where they look to capitalize on your mistakes, which is exactly what they did to get their two goals in the third period.
We had to make sure we didn’t fall asleep through the amount of offense we had in the second period. I thought we did a really good job in that second period of establishing our game. It wasn’t easy to get to their net. That is the way they set the game up.
It is a good way to finish off a difficult road trip here for sure. It is one that we were looking at for a while as one that would be a challenge for us. To come out of it and not lose in regulation, and to pick up seven points, is a good trip.
On Matthews and Marner’s accomplishments as part of the team’s overall goals this season:
The best part of what Auston is doing is that he is doing it in a winning environment. He is doing things to help us win games. The goals, of course, are a part of it, but he does so many other things to help us win games and carry play.
Our guys are focused on being as good as they can be in the games that are on the schedule here, but they also know that this team is trying to push to the next level and take a step. The regular-season accomplishments are part of that journey — these are the games you have to play, and they are making them count — but they know what we are building towards.
On avoiding a letdown in the first game back after a long road trip on Saturday vs. Montreal:
Part of what I have learned in my time in this league is that when you have these types of road trips and you come back home and play… We are going to stay over here tonight and travel back tomorrow so that we can get a better sleep tonight because it is such a quick turnaround.
What I have really learned is that, in a lot of ways, to treat the first game back like it is part of the road trip. You really don’t get to get home. You sleep in your bed, and then we get our fans — which is great — but in terms of where you are at mentally and the grind of it, you still have to approach it as though you are on the road in that sense. It is really an extension of it.
It is not like you get home, have an off-day, and get settled. I don’t know what time we are going to land tomorrow, but it is going to be dinner time, basically, by the time we get home, and then we wake up, get back to the rink, and prepare for a game again. That is essentially what we do when we play on the road.
From that sense of it, we have to keep the same type of mentality with how we played here and get a boost from our fans. I am sure they are going to welcome Auston back. It will probably feel a lot like it did when he got 50. All of those kinds of things should help us deal with any fatigue we might be dealing with.