Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 3-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens in the third game of the 2022-23 preseason.
Injury updates on Jordie Benn and Carl Dahlstrom:
Benn has a groin injury and Dahlstrom has a shoulder injury. Both guys will get more tests tomorrow, so we will know more and have that for you then once we have it. We don’t know the full extent to it yet, but both guys will miss some time. We will just have to see how much.
On the concern level about the injuries piling up:
It sucks to see it happening as frequently as it has been here. It seems like every day we are getting one or two guys that are going down. Some of them happened before camp even began. It is not a good thing, but it happens. It is part of the game.
There are a lot of teams going through it. Montreal is in a similar situation with a number of guys not available to them. We will get through this and find out on these two guys tonight about the extent of how much time they will miss.
So far, nothing that is happening is really that long term. I think we will get over this. In the meantime, there are lots of opportunities for guys.
It was another great showing for all of our guys today — the experienced guys that picked up the slack, the defense with Rielly, Giordano, Mete, and Brodie. Those guys picked up the slack. Kerfoot and Jarnkrok stepped up there when I asked them to go back.
That is the big takeaway for me on the game: the way those guys went, did it, served the team and did the job. Everyone else had to play more on forward, move around, and play different positions. They just kept working. I thought we had a lot of good nights from a lot of people.
On why Jarnkrok and Kerfoot were the ones used on defense in a pinch:
When we lost Dahlstrom and went from five to four, there was a TV timeout. There were about four minutes left. I talked to Gio on the bench and said, “Can we get through these four minutes, and then we’ll get organized in between periods?” He was good with that. I think they were fine at that point. We got through the first period.
That gave me a little time to think about what I was going to do and how we would adjust. With those two players in particular, their skill set and the fact that both players have experience playing center… Playing low in the defensive zone is one of the greater challenges of playing defense as well as defending off of the rush. You can’t really do much about the rush, but the defensive-zone thing is a part of it both in defending there and breaking out from that space.
I thought those guys would help us there. In terms of their general attitude and approach to the game, they are two selfless players. They are here to serve the team and do what they can to help. They didn’t hesitate at all when I told them they needed to play defense for me. They went out and did a job.
In this game tonight, I thought they are as well-rounded of players as we have in terms of their skill set and experience. It just made sense. I thought they did an incredible job.
On whether he would insert forwards on defense in a regular season game if down to four defensemen:
I don’t like answering hypothetical questions, but in this case, I will answer. I think the obvious answer is that I maybe wouldn’t put two. But you can’t go two periods with four defensemen. That is a lot to ask. We certainly would throw a forward back there and mix it up similar to what we did tonight.
I guess that is one positive thing that comes out of this. Now, we have two guys we feel pretty confident [about] and have experience with it. As I said to Dean Chynoweth, maybe it is not so hard after all to play back there [laughs].
On Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov both keeping clean sheets in their 40-minute showings so far:
It is early and they have only played 40 minutes, but they can only deal with what comes their way. To me, they have been excellent — whether it is the training sessions with Curtis Sanford, the off-ice tests, training, and preparation to play in preseason — and they have answered all the questions that have come their way so far. They have done a good job.
I thought Murray looked excellent today. He didn’t look like it was his first preseason game. He looked sharp and focused. The guys played well in front of him, as they did for Samsonov.
I thought it was another good showing in the goaltending department today — with Kallgren, too, coming in for the final 20 minutes. He was sharp as well.
We have all the stuff happening with all of these injuries. Goaltending has been very solid for us right from the get-go here. Obviously, we are looking for that to continue.
On whether he remembers anything from coaching Matt Murray in junior that gives him faith he will succeed in Toronto:
I did see tremendous growth from him. I got hired around Christmas time mid-season in Sault Ste. Marie that season. I finished that season with him, came back, and had him for another season. There was a difference in the growth in him after being really pushed, challenged, and reset. We also changed goalie coaches in the summertime that year.
To me, he was a different person and a different athlete in terms of his focus, preparation, and detail. He was the best goalie in the OHL that year, in my opinion. He really didn’t look back after that. He went right into the AHL, dominated, went into the NHL, and won Stanley Cups, and all of that.
To answer the question, I have experience with him in that sense. I don’t know how much if at all that was a factor in this situation, but certainly, given that experience, it is better than having no experience.
On Nick Roberton’s game and goal:
I thought it was a really good game for Nick today. He gets the goal early. It is a great goal by him. He is in a really good spot. He doesn’t hesitate and shoots it in for us.
You could tell he was starting to feel it a little bit and was maybe trying to do a little too much there. I talked to him about just settling down and getting back to work. But I thought it was a really good game from him tonight.
It was a great opportunity for those guys. It is not reflective of an NHL game or an NHL roster, but there are some NHL players over there and you are still looking for guys to step up and stand out. Even for the AHL guys, you are playing in an NHL building. You have a great crowd here tonight. Everything is amplified. You are still looking for guys to separate themselves in that environment.
I thought Nick had a good game today, but I could go all the way through. I thought Holmberg was really solid once again. We mentioned Steeves. I thought McMann had his best day today. Joey Anderson.
I hate going through the list because it is a big cluster of guys and I always leave one or two out. It is making for some tough decisions for us. It was really nice to see the progression from where we were a year ago with a lot of these guys to where they are now in their development: pushing and in the conversation to make it tough on us. That is really good. A lot of those guys will go again on Friday.
On the team’s power play tonight:
It wasn’t great early; it was kind of slow and stagnant, but it scored us a big goal in the second period there. There were different pieces of it where it started to increase the pace with the puck a little bit. I thought the third goal in the third period was a real good power play. We moved it well and executed on the things we were trying to do.
On the pregame ceremony celebrating the anniversary of the ’72 Summit Series Team Canada team:
It was outstanding to see those gentlemen standing in the building tonight standing with pride for their country, their accomplishment, and their legacy. To see that here for our organization and fans — and the Montreal Canadiens and the NHL as well — and give them that acknowledgment on this day was incredible. I think we can all agree that it was special to be in the building and share that moment with them.