Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 3-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes that improved the Leafs’ record to 7-4-2.
On how the team found a way to win:
Even though we were being outplayed for a lot of the beginning of the game — and when I say outplayed, I mean territorially, they weren’t giving us anything easily. There was nothing for free. We couldn’t really get our offense going. Within that, while we gave up the power-play goal, I thought we still didn’t give up much defensively.
There were a lot of point shots and stuff coming toward our net, but no real big scoring opportunity. Because of that, you are hanging around in the game. You’re right there.
I thought our players responded extremely well to the changes in the lines through the second period there [Kerfoot – Matthews – Nylander / Robertson – Tavares – Marner / Bunting – Engvall – Jarnkrok]. That is a pivotal moment in the game where I look at it as, “maybe this game or the clock could get away on us.”
I tried to change it up a little bit. Players made the decision at that point that they weren’t just going to go away. They were going to dig in. I thought the game changed from that point of the period on.
In the third period, you are right there in the hockey game, you generate a couple of scoring opportunities, and you make good on them. I think the win is on the backs of playing sound defensively even when things weren’t going our way.
On the play of the ZAR-Kampf-Malgin line:
Those guys were excellent. I thought Denis Malgin was our best player through much of the hockey game. He was one of the guys really hanging onto the puck, really challenging to the inside, and making things happen.
That line was really good. It is a few games in a row now that the line has been really responsible but also dangerous at the same time. Malgin’s inclusion with that group gives it that element. That is the one line I kept the same because I thought they were doing good things.
It is a very positive day for us. We are happy for Denis.
On whether he might keep the lines from the end of the game together:
Tonight, it was more of a reflection of the game than how I felt about the lines necessarily. I just felt that it was one of those games where we were fine and it was a 1-0 game, but not a lot was happening for us. I just thought maybe changing things up a little bit would get the guys’ attention and change the chemistry. That in and of itself might spark something.
At the same time, it throws off some matchups for the opposition a little bit, too. They had a plan going in, and obviously, the plan was going pretty well for them. Changing the lines, now they have to make some decisions and change their rhythm a little bit. That is what I was looking for.
In terms of what we will do moving forward, we have a nice flight and a day off tomorrow to think about that.
On Erik Källgren’s response after the 1-0 goal:
I thought he was really good. The team protected him really well. I don’t know, if you really break it down in terms of true scoring chances, I don’t know how many they had. We didn’t have a lot, either. If they had five really good looks at the net… if they had more than that, it wouldn’t be many [more].
But there was a lot of activity — a lot of point shots, traffic, and that kind of stuff where pucks were flinging at the net. I thought he gave us solid [play] there.
There were a couple of really strong pushes early in the third by Carolina, and he was really solid there. It is a good win for him. He has done well for us. He has beaten this Carolina team before last season. I am sure he had that confidence coming in.
It is a little bit of a different beast in this building, but again, even when it was hard — and this Carolina team makes it really hard on you to get going — our team was just persistent and stayed with it.
That is something we talked about before the game began. The game is going to require some patience. We are going to have to be persistent, find our way through, and not let the game get away on us. Kallgren did a good job of helping us with that.
On the growth the team showed this weekend:
I think lots. It is what we talked about going into this week: Let’s get better a day at a time. The results we have gotten are very positive. We have just been focused on our game and trying to play well to give ourselves chances to win games and not beat ourselves.
That is really what we have done. We have given ourselves a chance to win every game that we have been in. We played in some really close games this weekend against very good teams. To come out on the right side of it certainly helps the swagger of the group.
It was important to get it back. It is a long season. A lot of things can happen. It is why we have remained confident in our group despite the road trip not going well when we went out west.
I love the response of our group — all through the week and certainly here tonight in difficult circumstances.