Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs post game
Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs post game

Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s Game 1 loss to the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

On how the team fared in the Matthew Tkachuk (3A) matchup:

I thought we did a lot better once we made the changes to our lines. In the first period — certainly, the back half of the period, or with that line, I guess I’d say throughout the whole period — they were taking it to us pretty good. We had to make some changes.

On the difference in style of play between the Panthers and Lightning:

There are certainly a lot of similarities in terms of forecheck pressure, track pressure, and they play the same neutral zone forecheck with the 1-1-3. Their pace is high. I would say it is a quicker pace out there. They have a lot of skill that executes at a high rate of speed. I would say that is the difference.

Also, you can tell they have a lot of confidence, they’re feeling really good, and they’re playing really well.

On whether he is happy with the effort despite the result:

I thought we made mistakes. Credit to Florida because of how they played. They force you to make mistakes. But I thought we made some mistakes tonight that we didn’t necessarily make in the last series.

Looking at the first goal, we allow them on the inside, and we don’t get some pucks out early. On the second goal, we have some lack of communication on a loose puck and we don’t get a box-out.

We are fine, and we come back in the game. We are in a good spot. We gave up a breakaway to the one guy we definitely don’t want to give a breakaway to. We don’t want to give it to anybody, but we don’t want to give it to that guy.

That is a big part of the plan going in. He can jump into those holes, and that is how he scores a lot of his goals — by getting in behind the defense. We cannot make that mistake when it is 2-2 at the end of the period. That is a tough one.

On how to get the team more in sync than it was tonight:

You adjust to your opponent. There are some subtle differences not necessarily in style of game but just in the opponent. I think there is some real high-end skill in their lineup that can make a lot of plays at a real high pace. When you make a mistake, the recovery time is not really there. They are making the play.

They attack the net with a lot of urgency. Those are the kinds of things that happen a step quicker than it was in the previous series. It caught us. I think our guys will adjust to that.

Offensively, for us, we didn’t get a whole lot happening at five-on-five. Our power play — especially the first and third power play we had — I thought we had a ton of good looks on. We moved the puck really well, but we need to get one over the line. The power play could have made a real difference in the game tonight despite the mistakes that we made.

As I said, credit to Florida. They played a great game today, but it is a long series just like the last one we just played. We will make some adjustments and our guys will come back for Game 2.

On whether the team dipped in energy after a good start:

I liked our start for sure. I thought we had good pace. We drew a couple of penalties. It would’ve been great to score a goal on one of those, especially the first power play. We were moving it really well. We couldn’t get it to go in for us.

In the second half of the first period, we definitely had a lull, which was partly a lull by us but partly that Florida went up a notch. They did to us what they did to Boston in terms of getting us stopped coming out of our zone and turning on those plays quickly. Before you know it, it is coming at your net.

They do a tremendous job of that as a team. They did last season as well. They are getting that back again in a lot of ways. We have to manage that better.

I thought we did a better job of that in the second period, for the most part, and then we make the mistake at the end that gives them the lead.

On whether he is surprised by the quickness of Matthew Knies’ adjustment to NHL playoff hockey:

I am kind of past that now. He played early in the last series. I thought he stepped in and did a good job for us after he missed the first game. I am not really surprised anymore. It is why I am putting him in the spots that I am. I feel like he can make a play.

The more time he plays, he is going to get more comfortable. He has brought a lot to us.

On how the team can make it tougher on Sergei Bobrovsky and whether they need to get more traffic in front of him:

Getting more in front of him perhaps, but one of the big differences in our scoring chances tonight — whether you look at the power-play chances or the five-on-five chances and six-on-five chances — is that we had a lot more in close to the net than we have in the previous series. We have to make good on those.

There is a lot of stuff in tight. We just have to get it up or finish it. We had a couple of tap-ins at six-on-five that are a good example of what I am talking about. We have to finish those. Those are lateral plays, which is a real strength of Bobrovsky, but there are some tap-ins there where we are shooting it back through him versus putting it into the empty side.

Those are the kinds of things where we were a little off offensively. Auston had some really good looks in the second period on the power play and it didn’t fall. If we stay with it, they’ll go in for us.