Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-2 win over the New York Islanders that improved the Leafs’ record to 50-20-6 on the season.
On establishing a franchise record for wins and points in a season with six games left to go:
In terms of what it means, I don’t know that it means a lot — especially knowing where we need to get to as a team when it counts the most — but it is obviously not nothing. It speaks to the work that this team has done. It speaks to what this team is capable of.
It also just speaks to the fact that we need to remain focused on the fact that we are a really good team and we can do really good things. We have been through a lot this season — ups and downs — and we have been questioned at different times — and understandably so because of what we have failed to do in previous years and where we need to get to.
This team has done some really great things and has great capabilities ahead. We just need to continue to focus on the fact that we are a good team and continue to ramp up for playoffs.
On the confidence level of the team ahead of the playoffs:
I think we are in a good place, yeah. We look at how we have played. We look at the results we have gotten and how we have gotten those results — in particular against some of the top teams and teams that we are going to face within our division, whether it is at home or on the road. We have done a good job and gotten good results.
We have some work to do ahead. Next week is going to be a really busy week for us. It is as busy of a stretch — a seven-day stretch — as we have had all season. It certainly hasn’t been any busier than that and doesn’t get much busier.
I certainly would think our confidence is in a really good place right now. At the same time, we have great respect for the challenge that is ahead no matter who it is we end up facing. All of the teams are feeling just as good about themselves as we are.
On the new line combinations tonight:
I liked it. The biggest thing I wanted to see was Kerfoot, Nylander, and Engvall. I really liked that line today. I thought they did good things. I thought Willy was excellent today. Engvall has continued to play well. Kerfoot did a good job for us going back into the middle. I was really happy with that.
John stepping up and playing with Mitch — those guys were good. Mitch played really well and didn’t miss a beat. Those kinds of things I liked. I thought we got good shifts from Spezza, Simmonds, and Abruzzese.
For what I was looking to accomplish today in terms of getting some reps and comfort with those players playing together, I was happy with it.
On Pierre Engvall’s emergence this season:
He is coming into his own for sure. That offensive confidence is coming. He is recognizing what he is capable of with his speed and strength to get to good spots on the ice. He is becoming a really important player for us
Even when Kase was playing for us, Pierre was starting to really solidify himself for us within the top nine. Certainly now, since Kase has not been in, he has gotten even more opportunities, and he has been great.
On the team’s response after the own goal by Alex Kerfoot:
I liked that the guys weren’t fazed by it. We don’t like it and nobody is happy with it. It is not great. Like the first goal against, it is a textbook screen by Lyubushkin. I would call it two own goals almost here tonight. Our guys found themselves after and kept playing. Kerf made a big-time play to get the goal back for us.
From that end of it, it was good. The guys weren’t fazed. That is what I like. We were patient and confident playing in this game today.
I thought we maybe emptied the tank a little bit early in the third period. We were really good. Even on the 5-on-3 power play where we didn’t get it to fall for us, with how many shots we generated on it, there was lots of activity. We were real close.
Even at 5v5 in the first 10 minutes of the third period or so, we were really coming. We probably deserved to get one and build on our lead. We failed to do that. We got on our heels quite a bit the rest of the way.
Obviously, I liked the way we were comfortable playing in this game today. We didn’t let it get away on us. When we needed Jack, he was there.
On how he will manage the workload of Jack Campbell in the remaining regular-season games:
From a health standpoint, he is good. He is as close to 100% as you are going to get at this time of year. The feedback has been very good. He has bounced back nicely from that extra time we gave him — the extra day or two.
We are going to talk about it and see. It is a very busy stretch coming up here. It is a constant discussion here for us in terms of getting Jack the reps and getting him into a groove but also ensuring he remains healthy the rest of the way.
We will have that conversation — not just about him but the rest of the team as well. We have to make sure we are managing through this very busy stretch. I am not expecting us to spend much time practicing this week because of the volume of games that we have and the travel coming up ahead.
We have to really manage that. It gets a lot lighter for us in the last week of the season, but this week coming is going to be a busy one.
On the nature of Auston Matthews’ injury:
Given the time of year, the fact that it is pretty minor, and that I think he is going to push back it pretty quickly, we are going to leave it at that.
On balancing clinching individual milestones versus the value of rest down the stretch:
It is a balance. As much as rest is good for players, they don’t like it. They like to play the game and stay in a rhythm. We have to be smart about it.
In Auston’s case, it is a pretty easy discussion. It is not worth him having to play through anything as minor as it might have been. If it were a playoff game, he is probably playing, but we have to be smart with those kinds of things.
Even tonight on a back-to-back, we had some discussions internally about what to do with the group. We just decided to keep the group rolling along here.
That last week of the season is pretty light for us in terms of the volume of games. This is an important week for us to get through. We have to balance all of those kinds of things, but we are still competing here. It is tight in terms of where our seeding is. We want to maintain that and continue to play well going into the playoffs.
That is all the stuff that we are discussing. As long as we are confident that guys are healthy, we think, for the most part, we will keep the group rolling.