Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning which improved the Leafs’ record to 49-21-11.
On what the team can take away from an effort like this one:
I think they can really feel our group coming together here over the last couple of weeks. We put in a lot of really good efforts.
These last two, in particular, are tough games mentally for the group. You are at the stage of the season and schedule where you can just kind of ride it out, mail it in, and press on.
Last night, we go into Florida against a desperate team that has an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot, and we don’t let them do that on our watch. We came in here on a back-to-back with a short lineup, and the guys found a way to win the game.
And not just win the game, but I thought we worked and competed hard tonight. Guys are blocking shots. We had to get big minutes out of guys today in the second game of a back-to-back on the road.
That is what I take away from the game: The character of our group is really strong as well as the togetherness of the group in terms of just rallying around whatever the situation is and giving us all they have, whatever we’re asking of them at this point.
On the penalty kill going eight for eight:
That is kind of what I am talking about. You don’t kill penalties against that calibre of a power play and calibre of players without competing, blocking shots, and keeping things to the outside.
Obviously, Joe Woll was outstanding tonight. I thought the guys really kept things manageable for him. The guys just really dug in.
There were a lot of penalty kills out there tonight, and those are not easy minutes — especially on the back-to-back here.
Just the mental part of it to stay engaged in somewhat of a meaningless game for the group… The guys didn’t give a meaningless type of effort. That is what I love to see. They are just out there playing for each other.
On Joe Woll’s ability to jump into the net at a moment’s notice and deliver a strong performance:
Terrific. Clearly, he is a guy who wants to take advantage of his opportunity. We knew we were going to need him tonight. I am glad it worked out that we were able to have him here today.
The guys worked hard in front of him, but he was excellent. He gave the group confidence on the bench. You could just hear the way guys were talking and the way they were acknowledging each save.
It gives the group confidence and life. The guys certainly fed off of it.
On trusting Matthew Knies to play with John Tavares and William Nylander on the road in tough matchups:
We didn’t have as many options tonight is the first thing. But I thought he did a good job yesterday. I think he has earned it. He has earned an increased opportunity.
Part of it comes out of the group that we dressed today, but he also earned it yesterday. He earned the confidence. I liked him again tonight.
With so many penalty kills and four-on-fours and so on, it makes it a little more difficult to get him out there as much as I had hoped, but I still thought he did a good job playing against good players and with good players.
Again today, it was another solid effort from him.
On William Nylander’s performance:
I thought he was good. He got three big points for us and makes big plays. On a night like tonight, you need someone to step up offensively for you.
He generated a number of really good looks. The power play, of course, was great, but he generated a number of looks for himself and others at even strength.
He created a turnover for what ends up being the winning goal with the play to Knies, who shoots it hard. The goalie can’t handle it, so it hangs around there for O’Reilly to finish off. It ends up being the winning goal.
Those are big moments for him. We have seen steady progress in his game. I liked that he really grabbed a hold of it offensively tonight.
On Jake McCabe’s efforts defending the lead late in the game:
He gives us everything he has all the time.
If Gustafsson is healthy, he is not playing here today. In fact, that was the plan. He was going to get tonight off. I had to go to him yesterday and told him about the situation.
He had no hesitation. In fact, he was excited about the chance to play against Tampa. He hadn’t seen them in a while. He wanted to play them tonight.
He has played a lot of minutes and a lot of hockey for us. He doesn’t take a shift off. There is nothing easy about how he plays. I thought he was great. Big blocks on the penalty kill, for sure.