Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes which improved the Leafs’ record to 41-18-9.
On the team’s success against a team that is so hard to play against at both nets:
I thought the guys boxed out well. There were a few tips that they got their sticks on for sure and Sammy was really strong on. I thought the guys defended well. We blocked some shots and discouraged a few. We did enough to keep them away from the net.
They got two goals off of some breakdowns in our coverage that we need to do a better job on. For the most part, I thought we did a really good job defensively.
I thought we moved the puck really well coming out of our end tonight, which has been an issue for us in recent games. Tonight, we are playing against a team that is maybe the hardest in the league to come out of the zone against.
It was certainly an area of focus in yesterday’s practice and coming into today. I thought the D responded very, very well with how they moved. I thought they just got us moving up the rink very nicely against a team that is normally quite difficult to do so against.
On the team responding well despite some tough calls from the officials:
The penalty kill responded really, really well. Whether it was coming out to start the second period or in the third period, obviously, if the PK doesn’t do a job, it changes the game significantly.
Our power play got one opportunity and made good on it. Special teams were a major factor in the game tonight. I thought we just played a really smart game against a very good team.
On the incident that knocked Noel Acciari out of the game and Acciari’s current status:
It should be a penalty. It is tough to lose a player like that on a play like that. The refs saw it differently.
In terms of an update, he is not going to travel with us. He won’t be available tomorrow. In terms of what happens going forward, we will have to see. He was in the room. He handed off the belt tonight to the other guys — to Reeser.
He seems like he is doing alright, but clearly, he couldn’t come back in the game. That is concerning.
On the bottom six coming through with a couple of goals from Zach Aston-Reese:
Huge goals. That first goal — first of all, Gustafsson makes an excellent play to be able to get to a spot and clear the lane to get it there. Reeser gets a stick on it. That is a huge goal to get us started.
At a time when they had scored and now the game is in the balance a little bit in terms of momentum, Lafferty takes a puck, and you can see his separation speed to get into good ice. Reeser really worked to get to the back post. Those guys connected. It is a big goal for us.
Mitch scored a huge goal on the power play. The goal that Auston gets for us is a big goal. Seeing Morgan shoot it in the net like that again tonight is really good. Great initiative by him to jump into that good ice and get to that spot.
On Luke Schenn’s reception from the crowd after a big hit in the third period:
It was great. He hasn’t played, and it is his first game at home. There is a lot going on for him, right? It was his first game at home, and I am sure there are a lot of emotions attached to that as he has spoken about. He made it very clear how much it means to him to be back here.
He also hasn’t played. He has had one practice with us. There has been a lot going on here. He is going to continue to get better.
That was a great moment. He had some good moments in the game. Certainly, to bring the physicality there at an important time with the penalty kill and such… It was great to see the crowd react and give him that.
On the lineup decisions for tomorrow after finishing the game with just 10 forwards:
As we talked about, we are going with 12 and 6. We are going to stay with that. Even with losing Acciari, that is our plan. We will look and see what we have for tomorrow, how guys wake up, manage it, and see if we have to adjust our plan at all.
This morning, I told Holl he was playing tomorrow. I told Simmonds he was playing tomorrow. Those guys are definitely going in. It just so happens we have an injury. We would’ve brought Simmer in anyway.
Those guys will be ready. We will make any adjustments we need to once we see where we are at exactly.
On using both goalies down the stretch:
We want two goalies to be ready, push each other, and feel good. We want a team playing well in front of them. It is a back-to-back. Our team has done well in back-to-backs this season for the most part.
We have a very hungry Ottawa team that gave it to us pretty good in here the last time we saw them. It is going to be a challenging game tomorrow. Our team is going to need to be really good in front of Matt.
It is a great opportunity for Matt to go in and keep his game going. As I talked about before, I think he has played well since coming back. He hasn’t had the results the way he would like them to show up on the stat sheet, but I have liked his game and his process. Tomorrow is another chance for him to put it on display.