Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers that improved the Leafs’ record to 51-20-6 on the season.
On the team’s three oldest veterans — all from Toronto — connecting for a goal:
I didn’t put the connection together. I did put the connection together with the three older guys, but not the three Toronto guys connecting on that. It is pretty cool.
On whether Jack Campbell looked like early-season Jack Campbell:
I think that is a good assessment. He was locked in. It is terrible that we had a breakdown there with the turnover and forcing the issue to give up the second goal. But he was excellent. It was great to see.
We gave up more shots than we would have liked today as a team. I think if you talked to Jack and to the goalie coach, Steve Briere, you want those shots. You want that work, especially on a night when Jack was feeling it like he was.
That is the biggest takeaway I will take out of the game today: Jack Campbell’s play.
On William Nylander also rediscovering his form from earlier in the season:
It has been like that for a few games now. He is moving his feet. He has been a real difference-maker. Obviously, on the power play once again, he was the triggerman. He made good on it. More importantly, he is skating on both sides of the puck. He has been really good.
With Auston’s absence, you need guys to step up. He has certainly done that in the last two games, but even going back further than that, he has done a good job of late.
On Nylander going back and rewatching some of his game tape from earlier in the year:
First off, in today’s game, players are more dialed into their own games than ever. They have more information and video accessible to them than ever. We provide these guys with this stuff. It is readily available. Even without us, guys at home can do whatever they want and watch different things.
In Will’s case, it just shows that he is focused on his game. He knows he has more to offer. It is no secret. We have talked to him about this and he knows this. Sometimes going back and watching it maybe helps you really see it and it can spark something for you.
At times, coaches and teammates can talk to you, but maybe you sometimes need to reflect a little bit and get after it yourself. Whichever way it has come together, he is certainly back in a groove here. No better time to do it than this time of year. We are right around the corner from doing it for real.
On the career highs across the board for so many players on the team:
Part of it is the evolution of the players and where they are at in their careers, their age, and all of that. It is no secret that the more team success that you have… With the individuals inside it, you don’t know which it is, right? Is the team and thus the individuals having success? Is it the individuals that are carrying the team?
Whichever way you want to look at it, there is no doubt our individual players have taken a step this season, but we have played really good hockey as a team. The guys have really bought into it.
We have put ourselves in good spots to produce on offense. We have had the number-one power play in the NHL for a long time now, and there is a lot of opportunities for guys to produce there.
We have talked about the penalty kill and the numbers that it has put up offensively. That has had an uptick. We have won a lot of games where we are in a position to score a lot of empty-net goals.
All of these things have contributed to guys being put into positions to get good offensive numbers. It is great. You want that, right? You put together a team concept, and everybody is committed to the goal of coming together to be a team that can succeed when it matters the most, but every player has their own individual situation going on. Everybody has their own goals, things they want to meet, and their own career to attend to.
You want to marry the two. The guys have done that. They have really bought into it. It is nice to see them get rewarded as the team has set franchise records and all of these things. We are putting ourselves in a good spot going into the playoffs.
It goes hand in hand. It is good to see everybody getting their piece.
On whether this is the deepest Leafs team he has coached:
Certainly, on defense it is. On forward, it is somewhat similar to where we have been. I think back to a couple of years ago when we played in the bubble here. We had Pierre Engvall playing on the fourth line at that time with Clifford and Spezza. In that sense, we are in the same sort of place. Engvall has moved up. Blackwell has come in.
On defense, we have the health of Muzzin and Sandin as something that needs to fall into place here. Kase as well. We look at those guys as options. We hope that they come available for us. We think we are in a really good place there for sure.
On the new line combinations tonight:
I liked them. I liked the Kerfoot, Engvall, and Nylander line once again here today. After that, we chased it a little bit. One of the areas I was concerned about going into the game was faceoffs with Abruzzese and Kerfoot as guys who aren’t overly comfortable taking draws. That was going to put us in a tough spot that way.
Going into the third period, we had an opportunity to try a different look while up a couple of goals. We ended up with the Kampf, Engvall, and Mikheyev line together, giving them a chance to go. I gave them a shift in the second period randomly, and I thought they were outstanding. Same with putting John and Mitch together; at one point, they had a really good shift together.
I shifted things a little bit in the third, but I wanted to try some things. I wanted to give Abruzzese a really good look here today — play some more minutes with like-minded players in terms of skill set, intelligence, and all of that.
I thought, once again with Abruzzese, virtually every time he touched the puck, the next guy to touch it played on our team. That was really nice to see. He is a really calm little passer. He keeps the play moving. I like that about him. It was good to see him get that opportunity.
Going into the third, I thought it warranted a different look for us to try to seal the game.
On whether he tracks what happens after a player touches the puck:
It depends. Not a great deal, but oftentimes, it is something that stands out — in particular with someone like Abruzzese, where you look at the stat sheet and not a lot is showing up. For a young player that is coming in and trying to adjust to the NHL, you are trying to look for those kinds of things.
When he has the puck on his stick, it seems like it lands on someone else’s stick on our team after. He keeps the play moving. Other guys fight it. They overthink it or the pressure closes on them quickly, they can’t escape, and the play dies or we are chasing it a little bit.
At times, I will go through sequences like that and try to get a feel for how things are working for an individual player, but it is not something we track with much detail or regularity.
On going back into Florida for big games against the Lightning and Panthers:
It feels good how it went for us there [last time] — in Tampa, in particular. We know that to go in and do it again is a challenge. It is a nice test for us between the two Florida games and then going into Washington. It is going to be a busy rest of the week and is going to require a lot of energy from our guys. We have to manage that well.
We are not going to skate tomorrow. We are just going to get out to Tampa tomorrow evening and get ready for the game. In that sense, it is kind of like a playoff-type of mentality here. You play the game tonight, rest up, get a good sleep, get up, do your thing, get on the plane, head out onto the road, and get ready to play.
It is nice timing in terms of where it lands for us. It is easy at this time of year to sort of start to look past games and look to what is ahead. If you do that when you are playing this calibre of team on the road, it is going to be a tough night for you.
On whether Matthews will skate tomorrow and participate in the road trip:
Yeah, there are going to be some injured guys skating tomorrow. I haven’t gotten the list of exactly who it is but based on how things went today, I would think Auston would go tomorrow. He is going to travel.
We haven’t discussed the lineup or what is happening here. I got the word that Auston wasn’t going to play today, and then I haven’t really revisited that since. We will get that sorted in the next day or so.
He is feeling good. He had a really good skate today. Like I said from the beginning, we thought this was a pretty minor situation that he was going to push through quickly. We will just have to make sure we are putting him in a good spot and we have used the appropriate time.
It is a new injury for him. It is something that he hasn’t dealt with before. We want to make sure he is feeling good and comfortable before he gets back out there.