Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 5-4 overtime win over the Ottawa Senators that improved the Leafs’ record to 49-20-6 on the season.
On the team’s performance:
I thought we played a really good first period. We made a dumb mistake to let them get to 2-on-0 at a time when we were carrying the play and in full control of the game. They got one that bounced off of us. We probably could have had two or three ourselves in the first period. Our first period was fine. The score we didn’t like. There was a lot to like about our first.
A good portion of our second period I didn’t like. I thought for a bit there we were outworked and outcompeted. From the time they made it 3-1, though, I thought our guys really dug in from that point on and were really good.
On the team’s pushback when down 2-0, 3-1, and 4-3:
I didn’t like that we were down 2-0 after one, but there was a lot to like about our first period. We did a lot of good things there. I think we gave up six shots or something like that.
At the start of the second period, for a good chunk of that, I didn’t like it. We were on our heels quite a bit. They were just winning pucks.
Once we were down, we fought back. We got down again in the third period and evened the score. We get it to overtime, and it is anybody’s game from there.
I liked our guys’ response for sure. There was a lot to like about the game today. There were certain things where we gave them two gifts — a 2-on-0, a breakaway, and a couple of deflections around our net that we didn’t like, either.
There was a lot to like about our game here. Credit to Ottawa. They played hard. It is clear this game mattered a lot to them. The crowd was great. Both teams responded to it. We will take our two points and get ready for tomorrow.
On Mark Giordano’s contributions offensively including the OT winner:
Those were big goals. Those are the types of goals that get the team to rally and celebrate. I like it. It is a deserving moment for a guy like him who has come in here and done an excellent job for us.
On shaking up the lines in the second period:
For a good chunk of the period, I thought we were on our heels. We weren’t winning shifts. A lot of our shifts were ending in our zone. We had a lot of d-zone faceoffs there. All season long, when I have had them together, Kampf, Mikheyev, and Engvall have done a good job of starting in our end, driving the puck down the ice, and getting us going on our front foot.
I thought that was a bit of a turning point for us in that second period. That line really started to drive the puck down the rink for us. We started to build positive momentum from there. That is what I was looking for in that.
Obviously, to do that, I moved Willy back. I thought Willy had some jump today and that line was good, too. I just decided to stick with it. I liked what both groups were giving us there.
Obviously, the Matthews line was dominant.
On what he has learned through all of the experimentation on defense:
I have learned that our guys are able to adjust and adapt to different partners — both on practice days, when you are regrouping to reset for a new game, and within a game. Even within the game itself, Dean is moving things around and adapting to faceoff scenarios and different matchups. The players have adapted well.
We have some guys — Brodie, obviously — that move around and play both sides. That is the biggest thing. Giordano and Liljegren have done a good job together, and Rielly-Lybushkin. We have just found different things that work.
With Muzz being out, we have gone back to these pairs that we think have worked for us for a little while. I thought there were times today where each pairing had some tough moments in the game, but for good chunks of the game, they were good as well.
On the jostling in the standings for third place in the Atlantic:
We are just trying to accumulate all of the points that we can and put ourselves in the best position possible. Right now, we are in control of our situation in terms of that second seed. We want to hold that.
It is not easy. Teams in our division all season long haven’t lost very much. Fortunately, we have been right there and kept pace. We put ourselves in a good spot here on the backs of that road trip we had out there — that stretch of games, including Boston.
It is something we have to keep working at. In games like tonight, as we have talked about against these teams not in the playoff mix, you have to keep collecting points. Getting these two here tonight is good.