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

On an off-day on Thursday, Sheldon Keefe discussed the plan in net for Game 5, Matthew Knies’ status, and whether the pressure is starting to shift Florida’s way after the Game 4 win by the Leafs.

What can you tell us about Ilya Samsonov’s status moving forward here?

Keefe: I haven’t heard an update today on how he is doing, but he hasn’t skated and we are not skating today. We will see where he is at tomorrow. As of right now, Joe Woll and Matt Murray are available.

To be clear, Joe is going to start tomorrow?

Keefe: Yeah. Sammy is not available. It will be Joe again at this point.

Matthew Knies was labeled unlikely to return in the series but was officially ruled out for Games 3 and 4. Where does he sit?

Keefe: He has improved a lot. He has been with us on the trip getting lots of treatment and all of that. He has improved a lot and also hasn’t skated, either. He has been exercising and things of that nature. He will continue to progress, but at this point, he is not available for tomorrow.

Did you see anything on the tape that you didn’t see on the bench that you liked or didn’t like about the Game 4 performance?

Keefe: Again, it is a very close hockey game. Both teams played really hard. Both teams didn’t give up a lot. I thought our urgency defensively was very evident. It really came through on video as well.

We scored enough goals to win the game. That is probably what I liked best about the game, to be honest. We haven’t scored a lot in this series, but we have been in positions to win games despite not scoring a lot. We have had leads. We have made mistakes that we didn’t make in the previous series that cost us. We didn’t do that yesterday.

If we do happen to make a small mistake here or there, the urgency to cover that up in terms of shot blocking and defending second and third efforts was really evident. When you do that, you have the ability to win 1-0 or 2-1. If that is what it takes, that’s what it takes.

Noel Acciari recorded seven hits and three blocked shots, including one off his hand. Is that exactly what is needed at this time of year?

Keefe: Without a doubt. That is what he is known for. He has made a career of that. He has certainly brought that to us.

He is a guy who knows exactly who he is. He knows exactly what he can do to help our team win games. For every shift that you give him, he gives you absolutely everything that he has.

I do think that sort of thing is contagious and infectious. It sets a really high standard for the group. He just does it night in and night out.

Florida has been saying that they don’t have any pressure on them as the eighth seed that snuck in. Ryan O’Reilly was saying today that it’s the Leafs that are now in that kind of “free” spot because no one really comes back from 3-0 down. With a result like Game 3, how does it maybe change the dynamic of the pressure?

Keefe: Florida is still in a very favourable position here. There is that, of course. But we are bringing the series back to Toronto, which is what we wanted to do. We made them fly to Toronto and play us on the road.

We talked about building positive momentum. I believe we have done that. Now we need to be able to maintain it and look to make them uncomfortable. If we get one more, it is coming back to Florida, and then perhaps things shift a little bit in terms of pressure and what have you.

Both teams have been playing really hard in this series. There is not a whole lot between the two teams. We expect another hard-fought game. Both teams want to win. Both teams want to advance. There is pressure in that in and of itself.

What did you think of the Radko Gudas hit on David Kampf?

Keefe: I don’t have audio when we watch the video back. I don’t know when exactly the whistle blew. That is a hit on a guy where he knows the play either has ended or is ending.

Obviously, to me, that is a hit with no intention other than to hurt the player. There is a lot of violence to it. Happy Dave is okay.

Two goals were enough to win in Game 3, but how do you generate a little bit more?

Keefe: We would like to be able to get more pucks to the net, but they are defending very well. We have to make good on the chances we do have. We were in alone a couple of times last night. We couldn’t make good on those chances.

There have been times in the series when there has been an abundance of chances. You wouldn’t really change much in terms of what you are doing to get those chances.

Since coming on the road here, it has been hard. Florida has defended very well here in the last two games. It is going to change the flow of the series a little bit. There were a lot of chances happening, and then in Game 3, not as much. In Game 4, there were even fewer.

We need to stay with it offensively. As we showed yesterday, we have to do so with a foundation defensively that just takes care of our team and gives us a chance to win games. If we can continue to be one goal better, we will take that.

What have you liked about the way the team has been able to keep Matthew Tkachuk pretty quiet in the last three games?

Keefe: Some of the adjustments we made after Game 1 have really helped us play against that line, but they are obviously still very dangerous. We have to stay with it shift-to-shift. We have done a good job at five-on-five against that line, but the Barkov line in these last few games has really taken off on us.

They have a lot of depth. That is sort of an understated thing. Their skill and depth offensively are significant. They have the Barkov and Bennett line. They have a 30-goal, 80-point guy on the third line there in Reinhart. They have a lot of depth there offensively, and it is a real challenge for our guys defensively. We have really learned that.

I think the guys have adjusted well, but that has to continue. The reality is that we kept our season alive yesterday, but big picture, we haven’t accomplished anything quite yet other than extending our season and giving us a chance to continue to build our positive momentum.