Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 5-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning to take a 1-0 series lead.
On the massive five-minute penalty kill in the first period:
That is a huge part of the win. The early kill was a big one, too, a couple of shifts in or whatever it is. We had to kill one right off of the start there. That gave our team confidence and our kill confidence. When we had the big kill, we just kind of continued from there.
That was huge. We had a lot of guys that were really good today. Our team played really well. Our crowd was unbelievable tonight. I thought the crowd was the first star of the game. We had a lot of guys that were good, and I thought [the fans] carried us through that kill.
The players played hard. They got life. We got some chances. The way that our crowd responded and really didn’t let up for the rest of the game from there…
I was asked questions down the stretch of the regular season about how important home ice was. I felt it would be important. I didn’t know it would be that important.
It is my first game coaching the Leafs with a full building here. In talking to some others who have been through this, our crowd — you can feel the love for this team and the excitement for this team. I thought they were outstanding tonight. Our team just didn’t look back.
On assessing the team’s performance in such an odd game:
It is a funky game, right? There was so much special teams time. I don’t even know how we are going to process this one, to be honest. There are so many things happening that are not necessarily normal. We shouldn’t expect it to be the norm going forward.
We talked about how great the crowd was. The other part was just that our team seemed to be unflappable tonight. An early kill? No problem. The five-minute major? No problem. We just go out, take the faceoff, get our work done. In fact, we turned it into a positive with the chances and life we were able to generate.
We had a five-on-three, called a timeout, got organized, went out, and shot it in the net. All the way through, our team was extremely focused. We went out and executed. It was a good night for us.
It is one night, you know? Slap your head on the pillow tonight, enjoy it, and when you wake up tomorrow, it is done. It is over. The Tampa Bay Lightning will be a far better team when they come back in here. We are going to have to be better ourselves.
We will have a look at what worked, what didn’t, make adjustments, and realize we have to keep getting better.
On the importance of Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews getting on the scoresheet right away in the series:
That is really important. Those guys have scored at such a high level all season. It is a new season now. You want to get rid of the zeros as quickly as you can. That is just another thing tonight that came up our way or went our way.
Auston scored a huge power-play goal for us at a key time. Mitch’s goal was a great goal for us at a key time. It is one where he hangs onto the puck and hangs onto the puck. If you go back to last season, that was the kind of play and kind of look he got a lot in the Montreal series and it didn’t go for him. Tonight, it did.
Those are really good, positive things for us that will help us going forward for sure. We are going to need it. It is one game. Tampa is going to be a whole lot better. We have to keep getting better as we go through this series.
On the team’s response to the physicality of the game:
I thought the penalties took a lot of the wind out of the sails of the game, but I liked how we handled it late. I didn’t like Cliff’s penalty. That’s not a hit you can make there.
I thought we handled it well. I thought we were physical when the game called for it and we needed to be. I thought we handled their physicality well in making plays, keeping the puck-moving, not getting rattled by it, and standing our ground when the non-sense starts late in the third.
On the team’s unflappable response tonight:
I sensed it all season in terms of how focused our team has been looking forward to this time of year. I sensed a real calm confidence in our team in the last couple of days. It has been a quick turnaround from the regular season to now. Our team is extremely focused. That is what I saw.
The energy of our did not change despite having to kill a five-minute major against one of the hottest power plays in the NHL with elite, elite players. I didn’t see the energy of our group change. The guys just said, “Okay, we have to kill this.” We had energy, pace, we recovered with good sticks, and we got bodies on it to block things and disrupt play.
It was just a good, focused game. It’s a good model of how we need to be moving forward. It is not an indication of how the rest of the series is going to go. It is going to be different. Special teams were all over the map both ways. That disrupts a lot of the flow.
It is going to be a much different feel the rest of the way.
On whether there was any regret about playing Clifford tonight after the ejection:
No. I want Cliff in because of his physicality and what he brings. That is part of it. He made a poor decision in that instance.
When I go back and look at our last 20 games and I pull out the games where our fourth line has been the best — and I am talking about playing the game, defending, skating, forechecking — it has been with Kyle Clifford in the lineup. That is the simple thing for me.
The physicality is part of it, but the way he has played and the way he has defended has made our fourth line better. It is the best it has been since he has come back up here and we have played him. We didn’t play him every day — he has been in and out of the lineup — but when he has been in, he has brought a lot to us.
Physicality is part of it. He stepped over the line today and paid for it. The reason I made the decision was partially the physicality but more so because of the other elements he brings with how he skates and defends.
On the team’s best players being the best players on the ice tonight:
Willy had a couple of breaks today where he used his speed and got in behind the defense. That is what we need from him. He makes the other team nervous when he is skating like that. He can get behind you and challenge you one-on-one. I really liked that he was going.
Matthews and Marner did not have much time to get going in the first. I can’t remember where Mitch’s minutes ended up, but I think it was eight and a half minutes after the first period. It was outrageous where his minutes were after 20. We were having to use him so much on the PK and the PP.
It was a tough period for those guys to really get going, but I thought they got better as the game wore on. With the production, the guys who have produced at such a high level are coming in with high expectations for themselves. For them to get on the board, they will be feeling good. That is a positive for our team.
We have talked about a lot of things, and we haven’t even talked about Jack Campbell tonight. He was terrific as well.