Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after the Maple Leafs’ 4-3 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild which improved the team’s record to 10-5-2.
On the special finish to the game with William Nylander scoring the OT winner:
It is a fitting end to the week for sure — for us, for Willy, for the fans, and for the country. It is a terrific close to the event.
I would prefer that we didn’t get to the overtime, but if that’s what we had to do to have a finish like that, we’ll take it.
On the first six weeks of Nylander’s season:
I just think he has such confidence and swagger here now. He feels like he can turn the game at any point in time. That is the biggest thing. I wouldn’t look at these two games and say he played his best hockey, but he stepped up in big moments. He was a huge part of why we got four points here.
With all of that said, it was a great opportunity for Willy to come here and play in his home city and country, but he had a full plate — more than anybody who was here from the four teams — in terms of the obligations that he filled. To be able to do that, spend some time with his family, and still put on a show on the ice is tremendous.
I am thrilled for him.
On what makes Nylander able to handle so much off the ice and still perform on the ice:
I think he is unflappable. That is really it. Whether it is the spotlight of playing in Toronto and the media and all of the things that come with being a Maple Leaf, it doesn’t faze him. In fact, I think he loves it and enjoys it. He likes it that way.
He is here in Sweden’s biggest city. You can see he is a bit of a rockstar here. We learned that. We think he just enjoys that. He is not bothered by it.
He is also a guy who has spent his life in the NHL. He is the son of an NHLer. He knows exactly what it means to be an NHLer, to get back to the game, to be in a locker room around a team, and to be with fans. He has been around it his entire life. He was built for it.
Reflections on a four-point trip where the team didn’t play its best but got the results:
We like that we found a way to get the points. We leave feeling good. It was a terrific trip.
What a terrific city to spend time in. To have this happen in the middle of the schedule is great. You get something to break up your season somewhat early, you spend quality time together, and you get the experience and knowledge of a country that a good portion of our team grew up in and live in.
It is called the Global Series for a reason. In talking to some Leafs fans today from Austria, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, there are people here from all over the world. You start to get a feel for how important it is.
To that end, we have a role. We all have a role to play to grow the game and expose the game to fans who love it and don’t get a chance to see it live. To that end, if they tell us we can go, we will go. We will do our part.
In terms of how it affects the season, time will tell. We are going to do all that we can to manage it when we get back home. As I have alluded to before I got here, I have talked to coaches who have been here before. Guy Boucher has been through something like this before. Teams haven’t always responded well and it has taken time to dig out of it.
It is going to be on us to manage that now. In terms of the impact on our season and our schedule, it remains to be seen how we get back home and deal with it. In terms of the experience itself, you can’t beat it.
On the moments that will stick with him most from the trip:
Personally, I had a lot of challenges here like a lot of staff including on the other teams. I am not sure how people in this room handled the time change and jet lag, but I didn’t sleep one night where it felt like a decent night’s sleep. It was a challenge that way.
I am excited to go home because of that reason. We can get back on our regular schedule. That said, to me, I just learned a lot about the city and the culture here. I don’t know if I have ever been in a more walkable city in my life. It is just tremendous. There are so many great places to stop. People are so friendly. I think that is part of it.
The other thing would be just seeing how global the game really is. You know how global it is as a sport, but the NHL… I was talking this morning with a family that was in from Austria to watch who are Leafs fans. They are all wearing Leaf gear.
You kind of lose perspective on some of those things when you are in the bubble in North America, but it really is a global game. You see how important events like this are to give those fans an opportunity to experience it firsthand.
On Auston Matthews’ idea of Mexico City as the next stop for the Global Series:
Sounds like a wonderful idea. Good on Auston. I know that is a very important place to him.
The more places you can connect to like that… It is probably not as entrenched in the culture there as it is here, but places like that are tremendous. More importantly, to have someone like Auston there would be so important to him. It speaks to how diverse our game is and how much it has grown in that sense.