Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
On the message to the team after the loss:
It is tough to find words. I just told them that they have lots of reasons to be proud of the work that they did this season that put us in a position to even play in this game tonight against an opponent like that.
There are lots of reasons to be proud, and yet lots of reasons to be devastated and upset. We feel good about the effort we put forth. I thought they gave us everything that they had.
We did come up short. We are in the winning business. We didn’t get it done.
On what the difference was in the game:
When a game is this close, it is hard to really pinpoint. They found a way to get that second goal. Both goals that they scored were sort of bang-bang type plays. Pucks sort of squirt loose, and Paul shoots it in the net.
I thought we had a couple of looks similar to that, early in the game especially, and we didn’t capitalize. We didn’t finish the chance.
Capitalizing on chances would be the difference. Both teams really didn’t give each other very much tonight. Offense is hard to come by both ways. You kind of had a sense it was going to be a tight one like this.
They were able to get the second goal.
On the call that disallowed the John Tavares goal:
I don’t know. It’s not on my mind right now.
On whether this loss feels different than the Columbus and Montreal series:
Yeah, it feels different. It hurts a little more, to be honest. There was so much disappointment in our failure last season. This one hurts more because this was a really good team that really played hard.
The fact that you come that close against that team… You can debate the merits of any sort of credit you want to give our team, but I don’t know if you can debate anything about the Tampa Bay Lightning, who they are, what they stand for, and what they have accomplished.
We are right there standing with them. We had opportunities to finish them in Game 6. We failed to do so. It shows that we were that close to not only winning this series but who knows what happens from there in terms of the belief of our team after playing against a team of this calibre and finding a way…
This one is tough because I really feel that we are a lot closer than it appears. Playing a team of that calibre… We will see how the rest of the playoffs go, but obviously, that team has the recipe, and the players have figured it out.
On what the team can borrow from the Lightning:
I think there are already things that we have borrowed from them over the last couple of seasons to build towards this. The biggest thing that I take away from the series… There are the obvious pieces, which are the skill, the offense, and that they are dangerous people. But how they defend as a team, how they prioritize defending, how they commit to blocking shots, and how they give you nothing…
They don’t get a lot of credit because you don’t really think of them this way, but we knew coming into this series that going into third periods down against this team was going to be a challenge. They are the number-one team in the NHL when it comes to limiting chances against when up a goal in the third period. All regular season, they were that.
That is sort of the hallmark of their success. That is championship hockey. They didn’t give us a great deal in that third period tonight. Those are the things I take away: just how hard they defend and how they prioritize defending.
On the effort from the team in the game:
I thought our guys pushed hard. I thought we played with confidence early. I thought we had chances to go ahead early on. That first goal would’ve been really important for the crowd and all of the reaction we would’ve gotten from there. We were unable to capitalize on our chances that we had.
There wasn’t a whole lot happening. Chances were few and far between both ways for most of the game from there. In terms of our effort and the pace of play in this series — in particular, in the last few games — that is incredible hockey. It is fast hockey. It is competitive hockey.
Our guys stood in and were right there. We came from behind in Games 5 and 6. That shows a lot about the character of our team to do that against a team like I am talking about — they’re champions, and the hallmark of their team is how they defend and close out games.
We weren’t able to do it a third time. Playing from behind tonight was tough.
On Jason Spezza losing out on a chance to win late in his career:
Spezz gives us everything that he has all the time. We have talked about how he is all in here. He is a guy who doesn’t have time on his side in the league. He has given so much to the game. He is continuing to work and commit every day of his life to winning the Stanley Cup and helping our team find its way. You feel for him for sure.
On the convo between him and Jon Cooper in the handshake line:
We will leave it. He and I are going to talk again. That is where we left it. We both just acknowledged it was a great series. It was really close. We got a lot of respect in that line from their team, which is nice to see.
It was a much different tone and respect from the other side from what we have experienced previously. We are certainly earning respect in the league, but again, we are not in the respect game. We are in the winning game. We have to find a way to do that.
On how soon he will be back in the office planning for next year:
Kyle and I will talk tomorrow and make a plan. We will have exit meetings and stuff with the players. I don’t expect any of that will happen tomorrow, but I would say on Monday, we will be back at it. I have already talked to the coaches. We will be in all week debriefing from this series. We’ll take it from there.