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 Montreal Canadiens that improved the Leafs’ record to 47-19-6 on the season.

On whether he is able to take a step back and soak in the historic nature of Auston Matthews’ accomplishments:

There was a moment, especially when the second one went in, where Spezza turned around and kind of gave me the eyes like, “This is something special.” No doubt. It is fun.

I was surprised he stopped at two, to be honest, with the way he was playing. You felt like he was going to have a serious night. It didn’t go in for him the rest of the way, but he was great tonight.

He has established the record and come back home here, but he is clearly not satisfied. He is continuing to push himself and our team.

On clinching a playoff spot with 10 games left in the season:

I hadn’t done the math, so I just learned a minute ago before I was coming in here that this was the case. It is a great accomplishment for our team. With 10 games left, that is really a sign that you have had an excellent regular season.

We have been preparing, acting, and feeling as though we were a playoff team for a long period of time now, but certainly, to have it be official speaks to the process and the work that the guys have put in to get to this point.

Also, it allows us to zoom in and focus even more on making sure that our game is right and our team is prepared when the time comes.

On winning seven of the last eight and keeping the momentum heading into the playoffs:

I just like that the energy and vibe of the team have been very good. They have really embraced the things that we have asked them to do, adjust, and focus on. We think we have played some really good defensive hockey here. It is not perfect — certainly, at times today, it was not perfect — but we have been putting ourselves consistently in positions to win games.

In Florida, we didn’t get it done, but we were in a position to do so because of how we played. In Dallas, we played a good game and put ourselves in a position. We didn’t like that we gave up a lead.

We actually talked about that this morning. Yesterday was an off-day or travel day, so we didn’t address the team. We talked this morning about that situation: one-goal leads, the fact that we gave them up, and the things we want to do better.

It just so happened we were in that same position tonight, and I thought our third period, with the exception of the one Gallagher chance where he gets behind us there, was a pretty flawless period. We didn’t give up very much at all.

With those kinds of things, our guys have really embraced it. For good reason, we are celebrating Auston, the run that Mitch is on, and what those guys are doing, but there are a ton of really good things happening all around our team and all throughout our lineup. Add another one to our list tonight.

I thought Erik Kallgren was outstanding. I know he has had some good games here — he had a shutout, and all of that — but to me, this was his best game, or the most comfortable I felt on the bench.

We gave up some really good chances for them in the first period, especially, with a couple of breakaways for two of their best players — Anderson and Caufield — and he stood tall on those. There was a 2-on-1 where made a big save on Suzuki. Those are their three best players offensively. He is standing tall there. I thought he was excellent.

There are a lot of good things happening around the team.

On Ilya Mikheyev’s fit with John Tavares and Alex Kerfoot:

His pace that he plays with — anything good that happens for Miky is because of his skating. He backs people off. He gets in behind people. He drives the puck up the rink. He has really increased the pace of play for that line. That is a big piece of it.

I liked those guys today. I loved the goal that John scored. He got a little bit of a fortunate bounce, but you earn that because of the process those guys play with. John beats a guy off the wall, attacks the net, and we get it back. He is attacking in the middle of the rink.

There were a ton of great things there where we were getting to the inside. That was a great goal in terms of the process and the timing of it, too, as they had just made it 2-1. I really liked that today.

In terms of the adjustments that we talked about and wanted to focus on for our third period tonight, the guys were really committed to it. Save for scoring the fourth goal, be it 5-on-5 or on our power play… Whether it was 5-on-4 or 5-on-3, it was an area that could have broken the game open for us and didn’t. We don’t like that about today, but a lot of good things happened otherwise.

On the presence of Mark Giordano stabilizing the blue line and the team winning six of eight since acquiring him:

It has been huge. We are able to spread the minutes out here now. I am not sure where it all sorted out tonight, but we feel we are able to balance that better.

As we have talked about before, it feels like there are a lot fewer times where teams can really wear on us shift over shift. We seem to be able to put out a fire quicker. That is because we have guys on each pair that have the ability to do that.

Gio is one of the best ones we have at that in terms of his stick, positioning, and competitiveness around our net. That has really helped our depth for sure. It really helps us clean up a lot of other areas of our game in terms of having that stabilizing force throughout all of the defense pairings.

On whether the team is aware of the ability to set franchise records for the team’s wins and points in the regular season:

We don’t talk about those things. It is all about preparing for the playoffs for us. Part of preparing for the playoffs is about being at our best every game. There is only one way that we play that allows us to succeed: a high level of competitiveness, a high level of structure, and a high level of execution.

Those things we want to bring no matter what. Good things are going to happen for our individual players when we play like that. Good things are going to happen for our team.

Getting to 100 points tonight is a good thing. It is a nice, round number and a great accomplishment. We have clinched the playoffs now. We have secured that. Let’s just keep building.

However it sorts out in the end, let’s do all that we can to put ourselves in the best position possible — both in the standings and in the confidence of our team and where we are at.

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