Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-3 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks that dropped the Leafs’ record to 4-3-1.
On the team’s inability to control the game for long enough periods:
I thought that San Jose’s best players gave us a real hard time today. We had a real hard time handling that. We couldn’t get much going every time those guys got on the ice. They tilted the ice. That was a problem for us.
Overall, in terms of moving the puck from our defense up to our forwards and getting onto the attack, we had a real hard time with that. Vegas was similar. Our inability to move the puck right now is really slowing us down.
On what the team needs to do to find more consistency after a 4-3-1 start:
We have to execute. If you watch the game, you can watch how many times we don’t execute on passes. We have a lot of really good players and a lot of skill on our team. We are just not connecting on passes — tape-to-tape passes where we are just making the wrong decision and passing to the wrong guy or holding on too long and it gets disrupted.
That is a big problem for us: our inability to move the puck up the ice efficiently is slowing down our game on offense and really hurting our game defensively as well. We are just getting stressed.
In the second period, we could never get our defense off the ice because we just couldn’t move the puck up.
On whether it is on the forwards to help out more:
It starts with the D. Their first touch has to be better.
On whether it is a lack of focus causing the issues with breakouts:
It is a lack of execution. We have to move the puck efficiently. We have to be able to skate. We are just struggling in that area right now. I think it is slowing us down offensively. It is putting more stress on us defensively than we are used to having.
On whether he considered switching up the pairings:
I don’t see that it would change anything.
On Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews breaking through to tie the game up at 3-3:
If there is a positive in the game, it was 3-1 and we came back, found a way to get a point, and gave ourselves a chance to get the second point. We had some opportunities there in the third period to go ahead in the game. We couldn’t get it in.
If there is a positive in the game, for sure it is that. When we went down in Vegas early in the third period, we didn’t have much of a push at all to come back. In this one, we had a great goal by those guys to finish the second period.
The power play, against a very good penalty kill, had to come through in a big moment. We were able to do that.
I took that as a big positive for sure. We just have to find a way to get that second point.
On Erik Källgren’s performance:
He made some saves for us there. It is a tough start. 10 seconds in, one of their best people is in alone on you. There was a little indecision. Erik looked like he thought maybe Hollsy was going to get to the puck first, and he didn’t. All of a sudden, he is not really in a position to make the play. He wasn’t sure if he should be out playing the puck. There was some indecision on that one early.
I thought when they had their push in the second period, he did a good job. There were the two on the power plays at 5-on-3. On the second one, we will give them the 5-on-3 one, but we have to find a way to get that kill. The fact that we couldn’t do that… It is obviously a big part of the hockey game for them to be able to score two off of that sequence there.
You take two penalties on the same play, which is rare and somewhat unlucky, but it was a symptom of how we were playing in that period.
On the mood of the team after back-to-back losses amid an underwhelming start to the regular season:
Guys are frustrated for sure. Guys want to play the way we are capable of playing. They want it to come together. It hasn’t. But the mood of the group is good. The guys are remaining positive and also pushing each other and challenging one another to get it sorted out.
We will take the one point we got here today, feel good about the fact that we found a way back in the game, and know that we have to play a whole lot better. We can and we will do that.
We will get on the plane, go to LA, have a practice day tomorrow, and get ready for a back-to-back to finish this trip.