Sheldon Keefe after the Maple Leafs' practice
Sheldon Keefe after the Maple Leafs' practice

After Friday’s practice, Sheldon Keefe discussed the team’s improved defensive play over the last handful of games, the plan in net for Saturday in San Jose, and the decision to keep Pontus Holmberg in the lineup over Nick Robertson vs. the Sharks.

Practice Lines – January 5

How do you like the team’s defensive performance of late in terms of what they haven’t given up?

Keefe: It’s been really good. For me, it’s four games now in a row coming out of that Ottawa game.

I know the Columbus game was messy in different ways, but the volume of what we gave up in that game was really low. We had some self-inflicted mistakes in that game that cost us the game.

Against Carolina, I thought we played a really good game and special teams are the difference.

In LA, it is a game from start to finish where we did a good job. You do what you need to do to win.

In Anaheim, we were doing a good job as a team of not getting frustrated and staying with it. You get rewarded.

It is a good process for me that has been building. I look at it as progress through those four games. That is what you like. That is what you are expecting to continue.

What do you think has changed in that regard defensively? Some of the players referred to it as a mindset.

Keefe: It is a mindset for sure. You go through it. We lost the first game coming out of the break against Ottawa. You’re not feeling great, but it gives you a lot of teachable and coachable moments inside of it. In the Columbus game, there were lots of teachable moments. It shakes the team up a little bit coming out of that.

I think it just gets the team’s attention. Guys start to prioritize things a little bit differently in their minds. I think we are in a good place now, but now we have come out of that back-to-back and it’s two days without a game. You are outside that rhythm a little bit. It is going to be on us to go back out and establish it once again.

Have you decided on the starting goaltender for Saturday?

Keefe: Jones will play. We had yesterday off. Today is a practice day. By the time we get back home and play again, it is going to be one game in five days for our team. I just think Jonesy is doing really well for us.

As much as we are eager to give Hildeby is chance, he is getting better. Practice today was better. He looks like he is getting comfortable.

Despite that, I think Jones is in a good place right now. The schedule is in our favour as it relates to keeping him going.

What are your thoughts on keeping Nick Robertson out of the lineup in favour of Pontus Holmberg?

Keefe: It is just more about giving [Holmberg] a chance. We haven’t given him much of a look this season. At different times, we have, but the left wing is something he hasn’t had a great deal of runway with. In the last game, you can tell he looks like a guy who is adjusting a little bit to playing over there. We want to give him another opportunity to go.

With Robertson, there were 24-25 games without disruption. We have a pretty good sense of where he is at. With Holmberg, we just want to give him more of an opportunity. We will give it one more game, see how it goes, and evaluate it from there.