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

Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after the Maple Leafs’ 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues which improved the team’s record to 30-16-8.

On the team’s performance:

I thought we got better as the game went along. It was a snoozer of a first period for us.

I loved the way we started the second period. We took charge of the game there. Big-time play by Kniesy.

I thought we played a good second period. It is disappointing to take the penalty that we did and get scored on as we did, but it was a good second period for us.

In the third period, again, Kniesy draws a penalty and we take charge of it again by burying our chance there.

All in all, it is a good road game for us. We did enough good things to win today, and I thought we played a smart game that minimized any sort of chances or damage they could inflict on us.

On Matthew Knies’ recent hot stretch (six points in six games):

I think he has been working, on the puck, and making plays.

It was a great play he made to start the game the other day against Anaheim with the pass he made to Auston. He carries the puck deep and creates a turnover after that before making a play to the middle of the ice, where Auston finishes it. That is taking charge in the first period of the Anaheim game.

Today, he takes charge of the second period to get us going. That is what you are looking for.

I have seen some growth in his game for sure. Coming out of the break, it looks like he has a little more energy to him, too, which is important.

On Ilya Samsonov’s four-game winning streak, and the story of his resurgence after the terrible start to the season:

It is a great story for sure. I don’t look at it as that big of a thing just because I have always believed in the goalie.

He played really well for us last season. It was more a story of how far gone it was in terms of looking like himself.

The fact that he is able to bring it back, look like this, and do well is less of a surprise to me. It is a credit to how he handled himself during that period of time and how the organization supported him.

Curtis Sanford has done a terrific job. I thought Tre laid out just a great plan for him. He did the work.

It is great. I think the guys have done a good job in front of him, too.

On the growth of William Nylander as a penalty killer:

With the more reps that he gets, he gets more comfortable with it.

The most important thing with Willy, like a lot of top players, their strength on the penalty kill is never going to be when the other team is in full possession snapping it around in-zone. Their strength is going to be on loose pucks and plays where they can sense the opposition is in a little bit of trouble, where they can anticipate and jump. That is what he did tonight on a number of occasions — and not just on the goal he scored.

That level of anticipation and just being strong on the puck to go the other way was terrific. That is a huge goal for us. A very underrated effort by Pontus Holmberg to sprint up the ice. He doesn’t get the pass, but he forces the goaltender to get a lot deeper on the play.

Credit to Willy for recognizing where the goalie is and finding the open space.

On the decision to keep Tyler Bertuzzi on the top power-play unit with John Tavares back in the lineup:

Well, it scored four goals last game. It was not just that but Bert got one, too. I think there is a chance to capitalize on some extra momentum. It is a similar type of mindset with McMann and the way he has been going to keep him up on the third line and keep him on the power play as well. We are trying to capitalize on some of that momentum with those guys.

On Marshall Rifai’s NHL debut:

I thought he was steady and very solid. Nothing stands out in terms of a mistake. You noticed him. He moves around the rink well. He is competitive. He made good decisions with the puck. I thought he did a really good job for us today.

On Bobby McMann earning the 6-on-5 ice time:

He has been generating a lot of momentum not just because of the way he has been scoring but the way he is skating and the confidence he is playing with. I thought he used his strength and speed on the puck a lot today.

I thought he was having a good game. He scored into the empty net for us the last time I used him in that situation. I just thought, given the game he had and the way he has been playing, he deserved another opportunity to get back out there.