Sheldon Keefe of the Toronto Maple Leafs
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals in the 2022-23 home opener.

On the team’s improved effort coming off of the loss in Montreal:

I had no issue with our effort. It was our execution and how we played. It wasn’t an effort thing.

We certainly played with more purpose tonight. It was a tough game. It was a hard game. It could’ve gone either way, but I liked how our guys stuck with it, got the goal we needed in the third period, and did a good job after that. Even with the penalty kills late, we did a really good job.

[Ilya Samsonov], after giving up two early in the game, keeps it there. That is all you can ask for. If the goalie can keep it at two or fewer, it gives you a chance to win consistently. I really liked how he dug in and kept it there.

It is a big win for us and a big win for him. I am glad the guys got it done for him.

On whether he is satisfied with the goaltending performances so far:

It is early. Certainly, we got the win tonight and Sammy did his thing. We are happy today.

On the team’s penalty kill and shot-blocking on the PK:

We know the threat that is there with Ovechkin. Dean Chynoweth had a good plan for the guys. The guys executed it. Justin Holl — a number of times — was out there sacrificing himself. You know you are going to get hit with that thing, and it is not a comfortable feeling. He stepped in there multiple times and got the job done.

On the 6-on-4 late, we didn’t give up much. The guys competed and got the job done.

Ovechkin is starting to pass the puck or deliver the puck to the net more because teams have been taking him away for so long now and he is adapting. You could see it in the preseason and in his game last night. He did it again last night.  There are a number of threats there.

When the ref’s arm goes up, it is a tough feeling in such a close game. Credit to the guys for digging in and getting the job.

On the team’s third line with Engvall, Kerfoot, and Järnkrok:

I think it can be a line that I can rely on defensively but has the ability to contribute offensively as well. It is a bit of a hybrid. The Kampf line takes on a lot of real hard defensive assignments and doesn’t get a whole lot of offense. Kerfoot is going to be somewhere in the middle there getting a little bit of both, coming out on the fly a lot more.

Today, with the nature of the game, there were a lot of faceoffs. There were more faceoffs in our d-zone than I would have liked, so I had to use more than just the Kampf line in that situation. He won some big faceoffs for us. On the right side, Järnkrok won a big faceoff for us on the PK late.

Those guys just bring a lot of versatility to us.

On whether it is as effective of a bottom six as he’s had as Leafs head coach:

It is early, but in terms of how I am deploying the team, it feels different on the bench. It feels like we have a lot more guys that can take on defensive responsibilities, defensive load, and play against anybody. I don’t have to be too concerned about matchups.

In a game like tonight, you can just sort of see the minutes of the top guys. Some of them are going to come down. Those other lines are going to go up. It is just the nature of the game, whether the game is close and we are winning or there are a lot of penalty kills.

It is something I am going to have to monitor, but it is a good feeling. There is a good sense of value and togetherness on our bench. Everybody knows they have a part in everything.

On the last 24 hours after calling out the team following the loss in Montreal:

I talked about that with our coaches. You don’t want to use one of those bullets after game one, but I just think it was really important. It was an important time for us. We have high expectations as a team — not just in terms of the results we want to get as we go through this journey, but in how we conduct ourselves and how we perform.

The first game of the season was a good opportunity for us to build positive momentum and really get rolling. We didn’t get that done. I think it was important for us to really talk about that, be honest about it, and not just brush it aside as another game or just one game of 82.

We had a frank discussion this morning. I thought the guys responded really well. It is not an easy game to play tonight. They played hard against us. There was not a lot of free ice out there. They are very competitive. It is a big, strong team with skill and a dangerous power play.

We really had to dig in a lot tonight. It was a back-to-back for both teams, but it is still both teams playing hard and emptying the tank early in the season. It was a good response. Always nice to come out on the right side of it.

On the team’s performance in the faceoff circle so far:

Faceoffs are a strength of our team, and through two games, it hasn’t been as much of a strength or an asset as we would like it to be. John was really strong there tonight. We have Kerfoot taking draws, who hasn’t taken a lot, and Järnkrok is just the same. Kampf ends up taking a lot of draws on his offside, which is not ideal.

It has not been as much of an asset as we would like it to be, but it certainly has the ability to be. We won some important ones tonight.

On the challenge against Ottawa on Saturday:

Regardless of where the two teams are at, it feels like we always get Ottawa’s best — probably not unlike Montreal last night. No matter what is happening with the teams, it seems to always be a tight and competitive game.

I expect nothing less. They lost tonight, so I am sure they are going to come in even more hungry for that reason. They have a lot of great players. They have added a lot. They had a terrific offseason and added a lot of depth. They have a lot of belief in what they are doing there. We are going to have to be prepared for that.

It is a terrific rivalry and battle. The more you can have of that within the season, it is a good thing.

On whether Matt Murray will start on Saturday:

We will talk about it. We were focused on these two. We will enjoy the day off tomorrow and come back in. You can ask me then.

On Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson making a surprise appearance in the crowd during a TV timeout:

I knew he was going to be in the building tonight, so I wasn’t as surprised, but it had sort of slipped my mind. There was a bit of a plan for him to come in and chat with the team before the game, but he had some commitments that were a conflict. He couldn’t make it work.

It was great seeing him. He is such a presence. You could just sense the crowd. It got my attention right away to try to figure out what the noise was about. It was a reminder that he was in the building.

He is such a presence. He got everybody going. Terrific.