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

Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 5-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres that dropped the Leafs’ record to 47-20-6 on the season.

On his impressions of the game:

It wasn’t good.

On what is behind the lack of effort on a night like tonight:

I don’t know. That’s four games against this team. We have been no shows in all four. It is hard to pinpoint.

It seems like every year there is one team that, for whatever reason, you just don’t have your game against them. This has been the team.

It has been a month or so — since the outdoor game against this team — that we have had a game that we just weren’t good in. Maybe against Philadelphia as well. We found our game in the third period and got a win. That is what we were hoping for tonight. Obviously, we didn’t get it.

On whether it is puzzling knowing the team has been playing such good hockey:

Yeah, it is puzzling. It has been puzzling all season, right? Games like this are why we are still competing for home ice in the first round. We have played so well for most of the season against most of the teams in the league. Nights like this are also holding us back from competing to win our division. That is the disappointing part.

As we have talked about before, we have played really well against the playoff teams and the teams that we know are the high-quality teams in the league. There is an expectation that we will bounce back. From that sense of it, it is easy for me to push past this one, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating tonight.

On what the Sabres did well against the Leafs this season:

They have defended well. They have outnumbered us on the puck. We have made it really easy on them. We have been complete no-shows physically in these games.

They have a big team with lots of skill. They are good in possession. When you don’t compete and you are not engaged physically — and you don’t execute on offense — you are not going to have the puck much. They have it a lot. That plays into their hands.

It is just the way she goes.

On whether losses like this down the stretch are natural knowing the playoff spot is locked up already:

There is some of that at play for sure. That is why it is easy for me to push past this one. We have played well when the team is challenged.

I wish that we didn’t have nights like this. We would be a team that is competing for the President’s Trophy and in that mix. Colorado is certainly running away with it, but we certainly would be right there with Florida if we don’t have these kinds of nights.

The reality is that a lot of teams in the league have nights like this, which is why not a lot of teams have 100 points like we do. We have done a lot of good things this season.

We will push past this. We don’t have to play Buffalo again this year. We can get ready for Washington.

On whether winning the President’s Trophy really matters to coaches and players:

You play 82 games in the regular season, and you want to have your best every night. You want to compete to be the best. You are either competing or you are not. We want to be competitors. You want every point. As a coach, I want every point and I want to win every game. I know that is extremely difficult to do.

When you finish first, that is a result of doing what I am saying: bringing it consistently. There is only one team that makes that claim. We feel like we have done enough good things to be in that conversation, but it is nights like this that hold us back from that.

It doesn’t mean that it is going to hold us back when the playoffs begin. Let’s push past this and be ready for Washington.

On experimenting with the lines and pairs:

It has been a while since we have had a game like this. I know we lost the game down in Montreal, but I thought we played a really good game in that game. It was much different than a night like this. Philadelphia is probably the closest that we’ve had on the road there. We found our game in the third period and ran away with it.

We challenged the group and we were hoping we would get a response like that. Clearly, we didn’t. When Auston is coming right down the pipe with a chance to tie the game in the clear and he forces a pass and turns it over, we are soft on defense, and now it is 3-1… To me, the game is over. We showed that we were not interested in competing, playing, and winning.

We at least used the time to try some different things.

 On whether Jack Campbell will start vs. Washington:

That is the plan right now, yeah.