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

Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after the Maple Leafs’ 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes which improved the team’s record to 34-17-8.

On Mitch Marner filling in on right defense:

It is great. His willingness to do it, first of all, and his ability to go out and do it… I thought he gave us a ton in that second period when he went out there in terms of his ability to make a pass, keep plays alive, and get us going a bit offensively to spend some time in the offensive zone.

It was good. We needed him. We talked about being in a jam on defense this morning. It jammed a little harder there. It was good that Mitch was able to chip in.

Through the third period, the guys kind of just held on and found their way through it.

On whether Marner volunteers to play D or if he gets told to play it:

Mitch has done it before is the first thing. If you recall, he went through a little bit of an experiment in preseason a season ago. We thought we could use him, his right shot, and offensive abilities to help us kind of launch our attack and O-zone play. We experimented with that a little bit and kind of got away from it.

It has been a nice reminder of what we have gone through here. He did it previously. I can’t remember the last time; he did it in a similar situation with an injured guy. It shows what he can do back there.

It is nice and good when the puck is on the offensive side of the red line. It is a lot more challenging when you have to defend the rush, play in d-zone coverage, and all of those kinds of things. He didn’t have to do a lot of that when we used him there.

In terms of his willingness, I feel like he is the best candidate. He has run power plays from the top basically his whole life. He is comfortable being the last guy back, having the puck, and being the guy breaking the puck out.

That is a special skill. Not a lot of forwards have it. You can have some of the most skilled players in the world, but being the last guy back is a different animal. It is a special skill and ability that defensemen develop over time to be calm in those situations.

Mitch has that.  That is why you go with it. With his defensive acumen and ability to defend, he is a natural fit.

He has all of those things, but if he doesn’t embrace it, it is not going to go well. I am thrilled that he went in and did the job.

On the conversation on the bench with Mike Van Ryn when a forward is needed on defense:

It was a very short conversation. Quite honestly, Mitch was in the conversation to play defense for the entire game tonight because we were talking about needing a right defenseman. Even before the game started, we talked about it and had a discussion about using him on defense tonight.

When we lost Gio, it was really just [Van Ryn] and I making eye contact that we were going to use him. It was really quick that way.

It was more just managing how the guys were feeling, what was happening in the game, and where the timeouts fell. That was really it for the second period.

We felt, in the third period, we wanted to use him a little bit early in the period just to sort of manage the guys early, thinking that we needed to save some of their energy for the end.

On Marner’s drop pass on the breakaway for Matthew Knies’ goal:

It was a lot to process there in a short amount of time in terms of the spacing, the timing, and the decision on whether you can get a good shot.

Mitch has scored some terrific breakaways this season and some great moves to finish. He has the presence of mind to recognize that he couldn’t necessarily get off the move that he wants to at that moment and be able to process that Knies is coming.

Knies had the awareness to not just go to sleep on the situation but be alert and finish it. It was good.

On picking up his 200th win behind the bench:

I was just told it before I came in here. I wasn’t aware of it. It is a credit to the great fortune I have to coach a good team. It is in that conversation. You are coaching good teams with good players. I am pretty fortunate.

It is funny. Any time I see those kinds of things… We have talked about this before about whether I break the season into segments. I feel like we should win every game. If you showed me the 200 wins or the record, I look at the losses and the overtime losses. Those things drive me crazy.

That is kind of the way it goes. You are not too focused on all of these things.

On whether Joseph Woll picked up where he left off before the injury:

Yeah, he was outstanding. He was the difference in the game tonight. Obviously, we didn’t play great today. Joe was excellent.

It was great to get him back. It was great for him to get through a game like that where the shot volume is not high — this Arizona doesn’t shoot the puck a ton, but when they do shoot it, it is usually a pretty good scoring opportunity. They make a lot of plays. They are a very skilled team and make you move around the zone.

I thought he looked really strong and athletic. All of the things we know him to be, he was that tonight, which is great to see.

On the job Andre Tourigny has done behind the Coyotes’ bench in adverse circumstances:

It shows the relationship he has with the guys. I thought their team was the better team tonight. They played really well.

If I am not mistaken, it is six games in a row now where they out-chanced their opponent. They have an abundance of skill. They play well. They seem to still have good energy about them despite what they are going through.

It is a credit to him. We played them last year and it was the same thing. The team was ready and prepared. He is a good coach.

We talked in the summer about Kerfoot coming onto the scene for them. He is a good coach. They are in a tough spot, but I thought they played a good game today. It is great to see Kerf coming back and all, but I wish we didn’t give him a gift.

Their team seems to be staying with it.

On Ryan Reaves’ fight late in the first period:

I loved the fight. I loved the spirit. I loved the energy. It kind of got the crowd going. It was somewhat of a quiet, slow start. It took a while before the shots and chances started to come for either team.

It is great for Reavo to have that, but Reavo has played some really good hockey for us of late. That has been great to see. He is skating on another level. He is making plays and advancing the puck. He is doing all of the things we need him to do.

Tonight, it called for him to show the other side of it. I am thrilled that he stood in and did the thing that we have come to expect over his career.

On Mark Giordano’s status:

I don’t have an update. I was just told he is not able to return tonight. It is a head injury. I don’t know the extent of it.