Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks that improved the Leafs’ record to 8-5-3.
On starting an all-Swede five-man unit to start the game (Jarnkrok – Engvall – Nylander / Sandin – Liljegren) after the Börje Salming tribute:
First of all, I was personally really touched by last night and the whole ceremony for the Hall of Famers with Börje’s moment in particular with Darryl Sittler and Mats Sundin alongside him. I don’t think I was the only one in the building moved by that.
It was something that warmed us to touching on it further tonight for Börje Salming, in particular, and the honouring of him. Our players got a sense last night — if you didn’t know — of how important he is in Toronto.
I thought it was a great opportunity to talk about that with the group. In thinking about that and preparing for that, I thought of the idea of how he paved the way for so many European players to come over and play here in Toronto. I know he has a relationship with some of our Swedish players. I just thought it made sense to pay tribute to him in that way.
On the team’s performance in the comeback effort:
We had an increase in just about everything: our place, our work rate, our battle level, and the energy in the building, which was a response to all of those things I just mentioned.
At the same time, I wasn’t as down on the first period as the scoreboard would indicate. It was clear we had another level to get to, but we had a lot of chances in the first period that could’ve changed the game dramatically. We didn’t make good on ours. We make a mistake, don’t tie up a stick, and they get a tip on one — a very dangerous power play shoots on in on us.
The first period wasn’t as bad. We still had 40 minutes to play with confidence we were going to be able to generate more of the type of looks we did in the first period. We just needed to make good on them.
We were telling guys not to panic and stay with it. We felt confident we would be in good shape as long as we won the second period.
On the new line combinations:
I really liked a lot about our game, especially the start up until they scored. That took the wind out of our sails and we had a bit of a letdown there for sure in energy. We just kept getting better. I just told the guys we need to stick with it. Play harder and find another level, but don’t panic. Remain confident in our ability to come back in the game.
I liked that we look like the fresher and faster team in the third period despite the fact that we were the group playing in the back-to-back. I thought it was as good of a third period with the lead as we have played.
On why he went with a new look with the lines:
I just thought it was time for a new look — not unlike what we did mid-game in Carolina. Here, it was more just on the back-to-back and wanting to change the chemistry of the group a little bit coming into today. I thought a little bit of a mix-up there could give us a boost.
Whether it was that or the energy and emotion of the night, or that we were coming off of a loss, I was happy with the players’ response.
On Auston Matthews breaking through with a power-play snipe:
He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities like that on the power play with really clean looks like that. Incredible play by Mitch to get it to him. That goalie was really starting to feel it. He played really well for them. Auston was basically one-on-one with him and beat him with a clean shot. It was a big moment.
An even bigger moment in the game for me: We gave up a sort of broken 2-on-1, and Auston was probably half a zone behind. The effort he put in to catch up, strip them of the puck, and make a couple of defensive plays after that — the work that he put in there changed the energy of the game for me. It changed the energy in the building. The fans got into it from there. They recognized the effort that was put in.
I thought everything just fell in line and in place from there. Everyone else started to match that sort of effort. That, to me, is leadership.
On Erik Källegren’s performance after the team went down 2-0:
Big game. We went down 2-0 early in the game. It is a back-to-back and all of these things. He just stayed with it and was solid. I thought we defended well as a group here today, but when you give up two early in a back-to-back, it can get in your head perhaps. But he was strong all the way through. He didn’t let them get the next one.
That is an extremely dangerous power play — as good of a power play as you are going to see in the league. They had some opportunities in that third period. He was really strong all the way to the end.
Really great moment for him. He has done a tremendous job for us. That is why I felt strongly that he deserved to be back in net tonight.
On Jordie Benn’s debut game:
He was really good. I thought he was really competitive. All of the things we know about him: a competitive, intelligent defender. He made some plays with the puck and moved it really well. He scored us a huge goal. He is a veteran. Particularly when you take out a presence like Brodie, it is good to have someone like that come into our group.
On TJ Brodie’s status after missing the game:
Not sure other than to say he is day-to-day. I don’t think there was any one particular incident that has him uncomfortable, but the fact that he was in warmup feeling like he could go tells me that he is day to day. It is the kind of thing that they will probably get a closer look at tomorrow or Monday and know more from there.