After practice on Wednesday, head coach Sheldon Keefe discussed the progression of Matt Murray and Jordie Benn toward a return, Jake Muzzin’s current status, and the team’s 1-3 record in overtime this season.
Practice Lines – November 9
Lines at Leafs practice
Kerfoot – Matthews – Marner
Robertson – Tavares – Nylander
Aston-Reese – Kampf – Malgin
Bunting – Engvall – Simmonds
Rielly – Liljegren
Brodie – Holl
Giordano – Sandin
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) November 9, 2022
How did Matt Murray look in practice, and what is the outlook for him going forward?
Keefe: I thought he looked good. I thought he took a step in terms of the quality of the work he was able to get in today versus yesterday, which is a positive progression. It seemed like he got through it fine.
All of that is good. He is trending in the right direction. In terms of what the plan is going forward, it is just to give him another day tomorrow and just continue to see how he responds.
Are you looking forward to seeing Murray really start to get going for the first time here with the Leafs?
Keefe: It is important. He is an important part of the team here. We haven’t been able to have him around. I think goaltending hasn’t been an issue for us, but certainly, you want to have our most experienced guy healthy and a part of the team. To see him back here, in my mind with how this thing started off, he is probably a little bit ahead of schedule.
Because he progressed so quickly in the early going, this weekend was sort of something, a couple of weeks ago, they were targeting as a goal to work towards as long as he continued to progress well. We are on track here.
We are just going to have to make sure that we are smart about it and that Matt is feeling comfortable — not so much from a physical point of view but just in terms of stopping the puck, feeling comfortable playing in a game, and being prepared after being off for so long.
Is Saturday a possibility for Murray?
Keefe: We haven’t talked a lot about it. When we chatted a couple of weeks ago, that was looked at as a possibility. That is what they have been working towards. We don’t commit to anything like that with an injury like this with the nature of it and his position. He has been feeling good, but you want to continue to monitor it and make sure it is not going to be an issue going forward.
There is also making sure we get the appropriate reps. We have the rare back-to-back practices this week, which is very helpful for someone like Matt, who is trying to get up and running.
It remains an option at this point, but we will make the appropriate decision. Really, I won’t be a part of the discussion. It will be more the medical team, the performance team, and Matt himself.
Was Ilya Samsonov able to get back on the ice again today?
Keefe: Yeah, he was back on today. I haven’t been able to get an update on that in terms of how it went, but that is two days in a row. It is a positive sign he is doing well and further ahead than we might have first thought.
What is your comfort level if Keith Petruzzelli has to get into a game?
Keefe: I feel good about it. He is a guy who has earned it. These are the types of situations where a guy like him would get an opportunity both in that it is a back-to-back and you have multiple goalies injured in the organization.
He comes in, he works hard, and he has a good attitude. He has succeeded at every level. I also liked the time he spent with us through camp, too. We will make the decision here once we have a little more of a clear picture on Matt’s status, but the organization believes in the guy.
The situation was expedited in terms of signing, but it was trending towards being inevitable with the work he has put in and the belief in him.
Is there any clarity on Jake Muzzin’s status?
Keefe: No clarity at this point. He is out indefinitely at this stage. Once there is more clarity on it, you guys will be made aware.
With activating Jordie Benn, is the plan to get him into a game in the next little while?
Keefe: We will see. We haven’t talked about it here. Because of the back-to-back practice days, we didn’t spend a whole lot of time on lineups or anything like that today. In general, I don’t like to have guys sitting around for too long. We will look at that.
We haven’t seen him much in the last few weeks, but I was really happy with him through camp and the early going before he had his injury. He is a veteran guy who has a little bit of a different skill set and style of play than what we have with some of our other options.
We like that about him. Certainly, we will get him in at some point. When it will be, we will have to discuss that.
Overtime can be a different animal, but is there anything you want to see your group do differently in those situations after three straight losses?
Keefe: There are some things about three-on-three that are very unpredictable and reactionary. The Dallas game works out for us, but last night is the one that is most fresh in my mind. Obviously, you just have to defend the middle of the ice a lot better, and also hang onto the puck. We had the puck, won the faceoff, and gave it up far too easily. Possession is a huge piece of the game in general, but at three-on-three, it’s even more so.
Little things like that I think we can do a better job of, but three-on-three is a little bit chaotic. We want to be better in that area, but we have a lot of other things that are higher up the list for me.
When you look at defending leads, how much of it comes down to decision-making?
Keefe: I think a lot of it is mental. It is knowing what is going on. It is the decision-making. It is knowing where to put the puck. It is knowing the transitions. Sometimes, in the transitions when pucks are in question, you may shade on the offensive side when you need a goal, but you need to shade on the defensive side when protecting a lead so that you can maintain the structure that you practice and have in place.
Generally speaking, in the NHL, when teams are in structure, it is pretty difficult for the opposition to get through. When you have the lead and you don’t necessarily need to score the next goal, you still want to push and control play — and if you can score, great — but you need to do so in a position where you can maintain structure as much as possible.