Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after the Maple Leafs’ 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks which improved the team’s record to 8-5-2.
On whether it was the team’s most complete effort of the season:
I would say so.
The penalty kill goals in the first period, plus the fact that we couldn’t get any pucks to the net, affected the shots on goal for us. We couldn’t get much going to the net. At five-on-five, I actually liked the period except for the fact that we couldn’t get pucks to the net. I thought we had more attempts and time in the offensive zone. Even though the shots were lopsided there — which was heavily influenced by the PK — I liked our first period.
Vancouver has been excellent in the second period all season. We were able to win and carry play pretty significantly in that period. The guys closed the deal and found a way to extend the lead while doing that.
On the team taking two costly instigator penalties in the first period:
I said it after the game. It is interesting that you get a couple of instigators and they score on them. Those are moments when you’d like to see the guys pull together and get a kill for them.
The game works in funny ways. To me, we built up some good karma through guys sticking together stepping up with big moments, and getting the crowd involved.
Despite the fact that the puck went in the net against us, it just seemed like it just pulled our team together to go out and play. There were good responses throughout the game and then a good job of managing the game from there.
On Ilya Samsonov’s performance:
I thought he was solid. He gave up a couple in the first period. That can get in your head, but he didn’t allow it to. The guys took good care of him. Once again, at five-on-five, we gave up very little.
We have been talking about trending in a good direction. It seems like almost every game we are setting a new standard for our play defensively. I am really happy with where we have been there. That is four games now that I would put right up there with the top teams defensively in terms of what we have given up.
That is really what you wanted to develop through this homestand. The results haven’t always been there for us, but we stayed with it. We talked a lot about the good things that we did last night. I thought that helped us today.
On Mark Giordano playing big minutes and stepping up with a fight at age 40:
When you are a competitor, you are a competitor. He loves the game and he loves his teammates. He loves competing. That is really it.
That is what the game called for at the moment. He is a special guy. He has given us absolutely everything that he has. Tonight is an even greater example of that.
On whether Bobby McMann earned a trip to Sweden with the rest of the team:
We will talk through that. In terms of that, the roster is in flux with the salary cap and all of that kind of stuff. Timmins is sort of factoring in here, too. We will look at that.
I liked what he brought tonight for sure. He skated well. He transported the puck. The fourth line scored some important goals for us tonight.
On what the win over a good team does for the team’s confidence ahead of the trip to Sweden:
It was a great challenge tonight. It was a great opponent coming in that was rested. It was our first back-to-back of the season. It was a good challenge for us, no doubt.
Through this, as I have been trying to communicate, we have been trending in the right direction. It hasn’t always looked that way, but inside of these walls from a coaching perspective, we have looked at a lot of things that are moving in the right direction.
I thought this was the perfect opponent for us to finish this homestand. I loved the way the guys responded.
On the secondary scoring stepping up with some greasy goals:
Those are the types of goals you have to score on a goalie of his calibre tonight. We knew we had to put a lot of traffic and pucks in there. We chatted a bunch and showed some clips after the first intermission of the things we wanted to do better to put some stress there. We didn’t get many pucks to the net in the first.
Secondary scoring is huge. It allows our lead to grow tonight. On some nights, the top guys are not going to have it. Through all of this, at the same time, our issue has never been about scoring. It has been about keeping it out of our net.
Let’s put together a process through four lines where everybody is contributing. Sometimes the puck will go in for those guys — and that is great — but the nicest thing is that since Domi has been in the middle, the third line has come together. Our game has really started to come along.
All four lines were good tonight and all six defensemen. John Klingberg came in and gave us a lot of positive plays on the play on the breakout helping to distribute the puck and being calm under pressure. Lagesson continues to battle.
The depth of the group was really solid today.
On whether Nick Robertson is more confident and comfortable in the NHL now:
I think so. We have talked a bunch about it. He is fitting in well with Max. The puck has been getting to good spots for that line. Whether it is Robertson scoring or Jarnkrok who has been on the end of plays, all three guys are working well together.
Certainly, Robbie looks like he is in the right place. He is not focused on the goal. He is focused on playing well and having clean shifts. He is a good enough and talented enough player that when the puck gets to good spots and the game is well taken care of, all of a sudden, the opportunities start to come. You can use your skill from there.
That is such an important thing for any young player trying to adjust to the league. Unless you learn to manage the game and learn to manage your shift, things just start to happen positively.
That is the message to our team: the more time we can spend in the offensive zone and the more time we spend with the puck, over time, we are going to reduce the time defending and increase the time on offense. Everybody is going to start scoring and gaining their confidence.