Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs post game
Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs post game

Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights that dropped the Leafs’ record to 7-4-3.

On the team’s performance:

[Vegas] is a counter team. They have really good sticks and gaps. They defend well, and when they get the puck, they are gone in a hurry. We played into that in the game.

We got a hold of it in the second period, and I thought we took over the game. We did a lot of really good things to put us in a really good spot to win the hockey game.

Obviously, we didn’t manage it well from there. Our power play lets us down. We let them get back into the game that way.

All of that said, it is a tough stretch here with three games in four nights against elite teams. Five out of six points feels good. We came a long way here in this last little stretch, but tonight is a sign that we still have a ways to go in terms of managing the game. That should be six points.

On the number of breakaways against Erik Källgren in the game:

It is turnovers. Every one of them, if you look at it, we had the puck, and it just happens. It is not even a defensive thing. You can’t defend when you give the other team the puck in bad spots and they can counter with a ton of speed. You don’t even get a chance to defend.

They do it as good as anybody in the NHL. We saw that in Vegas, and we certainly played into it again here tonight. Whether it was whiffing on some pucks in the first period that gave them freebies, or in the second, it was harder to get through the neutral zone and they were coming quick.

We got through that. Källgren made some great saves for us. I thought we were excellent the rest of the way in the second period. That is why we were in a position to win the game, and that is why we get the point.

On the shorthanded goal against and the long shift by the first power-play unit:

It is really based on what is happening on the power play and the number of breakouts. To me, they had a breakout right at about 1:00 or 1:05 or something like that. They went back to breakout. That is a line change. They have to get off there.

We have talked to them about that. Sometimes you have to, unfortunately, go through something like that to have that reminder that ends up lasting you a season. I am confident it won’t happen again.

On whether it is encouraging that Erik Källgren managed to stop four of five breakaways, and how concerning it is that the team gave up so many in the first place:

The fact that he makes the saves… Obviously, there are lots of questions about our goaltending right now. Källgren gets a chance to shine there, and it is great to see.

As a team, you have to do a job to protect him. We have been defending really well here as a team as of late. That is why we are getting points now. For many of those chances we gave up tonight, we didn’t have a chance to even defend. There is no structure involved in it because it is a counter game and a transition game.

That is where a lot of offense is in the league: when a team makes a mistake and you go the other way. Vegas, for a lot of years, has done that as good or better than anybody in the league. It seems to have improved even more now with the addition of Eichel. It is something you have to manage.

There is a reason why they are who they are and why they’re doing what they are doing in the season here so far. Teams have had a hard time with it.

On Källgren’s calmness in the net:

It is by far the most impressive thing since the first day he went in the net for us and the first day he stood at this podium. I remember watching him, and I think he came in as relief in that game. It was maybe his next game that he got a shutout or something close to that.

For a guy whose whole life is waiting for those moments, for him to be calm, cool, and humble said a lot about him and his ability to handle the moment and the responsibility that comes.

He is an impressive guy. You don’t want guys to get injured, but he comes into the season as our third goalie. He is a guy that has experience in this situation exactly. Last season, he came up at a time when we were reeling at the goaltending position. He gave us the ability and confidence there.

This is a tough stretch of games here to have to play against elite teams like this with the circumstances. His performance tonight — to give the group confidence and a chance to get a point — is huge.

On Timothy Liljegren’s two goals:

It was nice to see him get [on the scoresheet]. Especially the second one, the puck is on his stick to give up one at the end of the first period. For young players, you want them to keep their confidence and not get rattled by such a thing. To me, he just continued to play the game.

It was a pretty dominant sequence for us there offensively. The puck landed on his stick, and good for him to take the initiative to just pound it in the net. I love to see that. Rather than extending it or trying to find one of the other players to shoot it, he just shot it in the net.

We need those contributions from the defense. To see him shoot two in the net tonight was a really good sign.

On the message to Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin after the giveaways leading to goals against:

Those are the kinds of plays where you really don’t say much. They are not making those plays on purpose. In both cases, the puck kind of rolls off their stick or off the heel. Unfortunate plays happen sometimes.

Those happen to be the two that went in our net, but we had a bunch of those in the first period where we weren’t sharp with the puck. I don’t know what to attribute that to, whether it is the day off yesterday and us being out of our regular routine coming off of the back-to-back, or what it is. Nothing was happening crisp or sharp. Whether it was handling a pass or making a pass, early in the game, that was an issue for us.

We found it in the second half of the second period. I thought we were a lot to handle then. We were really rolling. I mean, Mitch in that second period, was the best he has played all season.

On the next step for the team’s growth after collecting five points out of six against good teams:

Continue to stay with it and be consistent. If you want to be an elite team, you need to be elite in managing games. You have to close the game out. We are on a power play. We had a couple of really good shots, and Auston pounded a few in there — maybe that goes in, and it changes everything — but it didn’t go in. You have to manage the game from there.

Those are all our leaders on the ice. We expect more. We have to manage it better. As coaches, we have to help them be accountable for that. It was very clear that they knew it in the moment, whether it was the line change, or if you are going to stay out, you have to do a job. They didn’t get that done.