Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 6-5 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues that dropped the Leafs’ record to 23-8-7.
On the high-scoring loss:
I thought special teams were a mess for us in the first period and in the second I guess, too. That kind of throws the game off a lot. The scores go way up, and you are feeling probably a little bit worse than you need to or should because you are pulling it out of your net three times there.
I thought we made some mistakes and paid for them, but I liked the way we kept coming back. After costing us early in the game, the power play came through for us to ensure we got the point.
Not a night we are going to love too much, but we are fortunate to get the one point here.
On sticking with the five-forward power-play unit despite the shorthanded goal against:
We have talked about it. Power plays with one defenseman out there get scored on, too. The group has no chance to succeed if I just pull it off and change it because they got scored on. If Sammy makes a save on it, we don’t even talk about it. That is kind of the way it goes.
There are some things we would do differently there, but I don’t overthink stuff like that. If it becomes a habit, it is different. But power plays with defensemen out there get scored on, too.
On Ilya Samsonov’s performance:
I’d like to see him get the first save on the shorthanded goal. I know it is not the easiest save because he is moving, but you’d like a save on that one.
Aside from that, I don’t know if there is a whole lot he can do. The first power-play goal is bouncing all around. The second power-play goal was a rebound that he doesn’t have much of a chance on. The first five-on-five goal was right in front of him with a rebound right there, and then the last one is a real tough pass that travels a long distance to a very good and dangerous shooter.
I am not down on the goaltending here today. As we have talked about, when we play better as a team, everybody looks better and everybody is better. This is certainly not on the goaltending tonight.
On the play of the defense pairings tonight:
I think it is recalibrating. You can tell it hasn’t played together and is not in sync, both in the pairings and in the players. Sandin is coming off of a break. Mo is coming off of a really long break away from playing. All of those kinds of things are going to take time to fall into place, clearly.
On the increase in production from the third line:
If you look at some of the offense, I think they are getting some good fortune as a result of their work. The goal tonight — there is a lot of luck involved in that, but there is a lot of process that gets you to that point to have a chance for the luck to go in your favour.
That line has been good. They have made some mistakes that have not gone so great. We have talked to them about that. They take on a tough matchup here tonight, and they have been finding ways to contribute offensively while still being good and carrying play.
I have liked the Holmberg line as well.
On whether the fourth line is building an identity:
Yeah, I think so. Hunt brings a different element there. I thought he was really good today — both physically and it was the most we have seen him with the puck here. When I say that, I mean not just with us but this season looking at his time in Colorado. That is a good game for him to build some confidence and get some traction.
Holmberg has been good for a while and so has Aston-Reese. We think there is some real good potential there.
On Auston Matthews hitting the 500-point milestone and what it means to the group:
Not a lot, really. It is a significant thing for Auston, obviously. You take a moment to enjoy that, but I think he would probably be the first to admit that he is onto bigger and better things both with our team and himself individually.
This is a checkpoint for him. He is going to do a lot more than that.
On the decision to go with Rasmus Sandin as the fourth shooter in the shootout:
We haven’t had many shootouts here for the last couple of years. We don’t practice them a great deal, but any time we do, Sandy is the guy that finishes with the greatest level of success. I have been waiting for an opportunity to try to get him involved.
We are so used to having Jason Spezza out there to be the guy to get us going. Having the first one of the year, things were a little off there. It was a great goal by Mitch to give us a chance there. We obviously couldn’t get the next one.