Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning that improved the Leafs’ record to 20-7-6.
On the team’s performance and ability to lock it down in the third despite the one goal against:
I think we started a little hesitantly to start the third period. We got back to playing, which is what we talked about after the second period. We were in a good spot for a good reason. Let’s just stay with it.
It is an important game against a good team. I thought we were a little tentative early in that third, but then we found our legs, and I thought we were fine.
Obviously, they started to shoot the puck from everywhere and had a little more urgency. I thought we made two mistakes off of faceoffs in the game. Aside from that, we were pretty darn good.
On Michael Bunting’s performance:
I thought he was great. He battled and competed. It was a huge goal he scored for us. It seems like he is involved in everything. That line was really good again tonight.
On the official pushing Bunting off the ice at the end of the first period and whether he had seen something like it before:
Yeah, I have. It happens. It is an emotional game.
On Rasmus Sandin’s status after leaving the game injured:
We will have to have him evaluated today and again tomorrow. We will have a better idea of what is happening with him.
At this point, I would say it is more precautionary than anything. They are going to need some time or things to settle and know exactly what is happening or what his status might be.
On Calle Järnkrok’s first game back from injury:
I thought he was good. He had good legs. I am going to have to watch it back to know a lot of the details on that. I thought the line didn’t spend a whole lot of time in the offensive zone or anything like that.
I thought he was good. It was nice to have him back.
On the improvement tonight over the last two losses on the road:
It is a different type of game than what we played on the road. It wasn’t nearly as intense or physical here tonight. It was a different type of game.
I thought we were in a pretty good spot. We made a mistake on the first shift of the game, and then we were really pretty solid through the whole first period. You are not scoring, and you know the team you are playing just needs one chance.
Bunts scored that goal, and it is a huge goal for us. Again, a huge power-play goal for us [in the second period]. We had been focusing a lot on our power play in the last few days. A play like that — the guys executed it so perfectly — is a huge moment.
Those kinds of things allowed us to play with the lead, and yet, you are still at 2-0. We obviously really wanted the third goal. I thought we had enough opportunities to get it.
In terms of what improved, I thought our guys just worked. The game never really opened up in terms of their pace and transition. They have been scoring a lot of goals off of the rush and in transition. That really wasn’t at play here in the game today.
On the importance of Matt Murray’s save in the first minute:
That is what I was alluding to when I said we made a mistake there. We weren’t in the right spot in our coverage. It opened up a big hole that he jumped through. That is a huge moment in the game.
That was one of the things that does stand out to me. In big moments, I thought we were really good. There was that big save by Matt, a power play, a penalty kill at a time when it was 2-0 and you’re up against a power play that is very good and dangerous. Going back to the power-play goal, that is a penalty kill that is really rolling and has been as good as anyone in the league here of late.
In those big moments, I thought we were really good, and then obviously, they made it 2-1. I thought we got better in the third period once they made it 2-1. We didn’t get rattled or fazed. We got the empty-net goals to seal the game.
In those key moments, our guys stepped up. It started with Matt’s save there.
On whether the games against Tampa feel different because it is a possible playoff preview again this year:
The games feel different because you have played a playoff series against them. It was so tight and all of those kinds of things. But to me, every season and every game is kind of a new thing.
In the first game we played against them in Tampa, it was a tight game. It goes to overtime. Our division, as long as I’ve been here and even before I got here, is so tight. Every game and every point matters. You know you are going to have a tough road no matter how it shakes out.
These divisional games are really important to us for lots of reasons. Certainly, we have so much respect for Tampa and the type of team that they have that we know we have to be at our best.
On whether he sought out any specific matchups with the benefit of last change:
Not necessarily. With the way some of the matchups played out, I thought we just had to go head-to-head with the top-two groups. They seemed comfortable with that as well. Obviously, on some defensive-zone faceoffs, things got mixed up a little bit.
It is always one of those challenging things when you are playing against really strong defensive centers: Sometimes, you are trying to avoid that matchup, and you end up with another matchup somewhere else that you don’t love.
For the most part, we kind of just let our guys roll today. That was important to me just to kind of get our guys out.
That includes the Holmberg line. I tested those guys quite a bit here tonight. I knew we had some tough matchups coming at different times. Rather than holding them back and them missing shifts, I put them out. I think we really need to see those guys in those moments.
I thought Holmberg and Anderson were really good tonight. With Aston-Reese, we’ve come to expect it. He has been in the league for a long time. You are really just kind of pushing your guys in these games and in these moments to be good. I thought those two guys were really good.
Down to five D, our D again were really good. Conor Timmins was fun to watch tonight.
On the tragic passing of Victor Mete’s grandfather in the Vaughan mass shooting:
I haven’t seen him. I just learned about it this afternoon. Obviously, our thoughts are with him and his family. It is a little bit closer to home now, obviously, because we know Victor and all of that.
It is such a tragic thing and we are thinking of all of the people and families impacted by this. It is incredibly tragic. Certainly, we are feeling for Victor and his family right now.