Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 5-2 win over the Boston Bruins to close out the season at 54-21-7 (115 points).
On the regular season coming to an end:
The main objective tonight was to get through the game healthy. I believe we have. From that end, it was a successful night.
We have 82 games in the books now. We get to play for real.
On coaching a game where staying healthy is the main goal for both sides:
It is a bizarre game to coach, to be honest. It is a tough one. Your bench is weird. You have guys playing in all sorts of different spots. You are trying to do well in the game and trying not to use guys too much. I was monitoring ice time more than I was monitoring the play on the ice, to be honest.
It is a weird game that way, but the guys did a good job and built the lead in the game. They got the power-play goal. Abruzzese got his first. I thought we did some good things and some of the things we wanted to do.
We wanted to be good defensively tonight. We wanted to be on top of their goaltender getting some tips and rebounds. We scored two on deflections. From that end of it, it is good.
Willy gets a couple tonight, so that is a positive thing for him and for our team. If he is going to play in this game tonight, we want him to take something positive out of it. He certainly got that. From that end of it, it is good.
I am glad it is over. Let’s play for real.
On whether he learned anything about possible defense pairs to start Game 1:
We weren’t taking anything away from this one.
On the matchup against Tampa:
It is a massive challenge, of course. It goes without saying. Back-to-back champs. They have elite players at all positions, great depth, and great experience. It is a great challenge.
I look at our group, and I think, “the harder, the better.” That is what we need.
We have absolute respect for the Tampa Bay Lightning, what they have accomplished, and how they are as a team. Yet we have great belief in our own group. We are ready for a battle.
On whether it adds anything for him being a former Lightning player:
On the status of Michael Bunting and Ondrej Kase for Game 1:
We will just have to see. Both guys have pushed themselves really hard here over the last few days.
Tomorrow is going to be an off day for all of us. The coaches will do their work and our prep. The players will be away. It will be a chance for them to come back after a day off and really see where they are at.
We will make some determinations from there based on their availability. I haven’t been told anything definitively at this point. In terms of what to expect, we will probably see both of them participate in practice in some form. What comes of that, we don’t know.
Certainly, neither of them is a lock to be available at this point or to be available to play even.
On the importance of home ice in the series:
It remains to be seen. We are certainly excited about starting here on home ice. I think our fans are really excited about our team. We are going to need every edge we can get. You want to build positive momentum in a series against a team like this especially. To be able to start on home ice is big.
We’ve played all season for it. The first four games of the series is really all you are guaranteed at this point. It is going to be two in each building. There is no real advantage in that sense, but certainly, starting at home is great.
We need to earn our way into the backend of the season where the home-ice advantage truly is.