Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs
Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs

Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 6-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres which improved the Leafs’ record to 35-15-8.

On the outstanding performance from the Tavares – O’Reilly – Marner line:

They were just at their best right from the start. As we talked about before the game, I thought that group was close the other night. O’Reilly missed a breakaway right at the end of the game. That one probably sits with him for a bit.

That line — our team in general, and our team game — in that first period was as dominant as we’ve been all season long. It was tremendous to see.

On the added dimension the team has offensively with the Tavares – O’Reilly – Marner line:

It was that line that broke out tonight. The next night, it might be the Matthews line. It might be each line spread out. As I said to the guys, that is what it is supposed to look like in terms of the team game.

You are supposed to counter quickly on offense. Most of our goals came out of good defending and shutting down the neutral zone and transitioning the other way. That was the key for us going into the hockey game. The guys executed at a high level.

It happened to be the O’Reilly line to get his going, which is great, but Bunting scores us a big goal. I thought the Kampf and Acciari lines were really, really good defensively and gave us good shifts, too.

In that first period — in particular, in the first 15 minutes or so — it was as good as we have been in all facets with and without the puck all season. That is the result you get. That is what you are striving for every night.

It is really difficult to get everything clicking together all at the same time, but that is what it looks like when it does.

On whether he might stick with the Tavares – O’Reilly – Marner line longer than expected:

I don’t know. I didn’t put any sort of timeline on it other than to say I wasn’t going to do it for one or two games. We owe it to the line to spend some time — some real time — together.

It would’ve been easy the other night after a loss where it didn’t go so great to break it up. Our third and fourth lines have been so good that there are lots of reasons to stay with it. I felt like they were close.

I think it is a good sample of what we are capable of. I still feel, at the end of the day, we are going to have John back at center and all of those kinds of things, but you want to build chemistry and confidence that if and when you go to it, that is what it is capable of.

On the areas of the game where the team was executing so well in the first period:

It was the way we defended in terms of how hard we closed on both sides, whether it was our defensemen with tight taps or our forwards with the backside providing pressure and forcing them to turn the puck over and give it back to us. And then it was the way that we countered and how we made plays and held onto the puck. We were executing at a very high level there.

Mitch was really feeling it early in the game. As I said, it was all the lines with the way we were moving the puck out of those transitions. It is one thing to defend hard and get the puck back, but then you have to execute at a high level going the other way to really control play and take over.

On both sides of it, was really clicking for us there early.

On conceding three goals in the second half of the game:

When you have a period as we did and you grab control of the game on the road the way that we did, you are not going to get too critical of the rest of the game from there. That said, while there is a great sample of what it is supposed to look like and what we are capable of, I think there is still plenty in there in the second half of the game that shows why we need to stay on our habits and on our details all the way through regardless of the score or opponent.