Sheldon Keefe, playoff press conference

On an off-day between Games 3 and 4, Sheldon Keefe discussed the passing of Bob Cole, William Nylander’s status for Game 4, and the team’s struggling power play (1 for 11).

Statement on the passing of Bob Cole

Keefe: Before we begin, I just learned before coming in here about the passing of Bob Cole. I wanted to acknowledge that and pass along our thoughts to his family. He is someone who touched the game in so many ways, but he is an icon in our sport and the voice of hockey not just in Toronto but in our country. A sad day for sure, and our thoughts are with everyone.

Do you have a favorite call of Bob Cole’s?

Keefe: Oh, man. There are so many. Quite honestly, growing up, every memory I would have of hockey would be with his voice echoing. It is very identifiable. One syllable, and you know it is Bob Cole. I have many friends and many people who love the games Bob called and how he called them with the passion he had.

With a career such as what he had, I don’t think there is one particular moment. I can say he was there for all of them, frankly.

Did you ever have a chance to meet Bob?

Keefe: I didn’t have the pleasure, but as I said, millions of Canadians wouldn’t have had the pleasure of meeting him and felt they knew him because of the passion that he had. It shined through in his work. Again, it’s a sad day.

How will the two-day break affect William Nylander and his recovery?

Keefe: Obviously, it would benefit it. The more time, the better. As I said last night, it is going to benefit those who weren’t playing and those who were playing, both on our team and on the other side. As we move to the back half of the series, it is a chance to get a breath and some needed recovery. We will ramp it back up tomorrow.

Is it a migraine issue, as has been reported?

Keefe: I think we made it clear at the beginning that we are not going to comment on Willy or any other player’s status or situation at this time of year, especially. We have been working with Willy to give him the time he needs to be ready to play. The medical team works with him on a daily basis to see where he is at. We will continue to assess that.

The players mentioned wanting to hold onto momentum for longer in the series. Is there something the group can do to better hold onto the momentum when they get into those moments and not ride too high or low?

Keefe: It is just the consistency of keeping your focus. That is really it. Sometimes, you get up on a high and start feeling good. You have to be able to manage that in the playoffs, in particular.

Whether it is shift-to-shift, period-to-period, or game-to-game, those things are really important and lead to success. That is really what we will focus on as we press on and get ready to have another bounce-back game as we did after Game 1. Our mindset will be very similar.

Jeremy Swayman has a save percentage of over .950 against your team, dating back to the regular season. Is there a reason he has been so effective? Is there a key to beating him?

Keefe: The regular season doesn’t factor in my mind. I focus on the two playoff games that we have had. He is a strong goaltender. He plays behind a team that plays very well in front of him. The opportunities that you get are not aplenty. When they are, they are not always clean. You have to earn your opportunities that way.

He is a strong goalie who they have great belief in. They gave him the lead in this series. We found a way to get a couple by him and be in a pretty good spot in the game. We scored first in the game. We were in a good spot.

We clearly need more goals. When goals are hard to come by, we have to make sure we are minimizing the mistakes and keeping the goals against down.

Jim Montgomery suggested the Domi bump on Swayman was an example of how he is in the Leafs‘ heads. What is your perspective on what happened there, and do you sense any frustration that the chances haven’t fallen?

Keefe: I sense zero frustration. I think it is playoff hockey. Things are happening all over the ice. With that logic, you would say, every time they bump into one of our guys, we are in their heads. I don’t think that has anything to do with anything.

Given the tightness of the series at five-on-five, are you giving any thought to re-uniting Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner in those situations? 

Keefe: We will always look at that. I have done it a little bit here and there. I have primarily done it off of faceoffs. I do find there are offensive-zone faceoff situations where it is beneficial not just to Mitch and his skill set but Mitch’s right shot coming off of the wall. It is helpful. With three lefties on that line, there are certain faceoff situations and plays you want to run where it is not an ideal set. Having Mitch makes sense in that case.

I will continue to look at it, but the Matthews, Domi, and Bertuzzi line was fantastic in Game 2. That is part of it. You don’t want to disrupt one line for another, and then you are kind of left with no lines. You want to get multiple lines going.

It so happened last night that the Marner, Tavares, and Knies line scored a really nice goal and generated a number of nice chances for us. There are a lot of benefits we have seen from that. We have to trust it and work through it but also look to find our spots to change it up when it suits us.

Joe Bowen called out the crowd last night and said they were not loud enough proactively. What impact do you think those in the stands had on the ice?

Keefe: I thought it was quite loud in there last night. There were a number of times when it was hard calling out lines. You have to scream the lines and move up and down the bench to make sure the players hear you and you are communicating properly. That was the same in Boston. We experienced that last night as well.

From my perspective, I didn’t see it as an issue at all. In fact, there were some moments in the game when it got extremely loud. Clearly, that is important. It is the time of year. It is hard. There is not much between the teams. The players are giving it everything they have. That extra boost is really important.

That wasn’t on my mind at all last night. If anything, as a coach, your voice and your head are kind of pounding a little bit. You are screaming for two-and-a-half hours trying to communicate over the top of the noise.

When you look at how the power play has performed in the series, what are you seeing? 

Keefe: We haven’t scored enough. That is very evident. From a coaching perspective, you look at it from a process point of view and break it down. The things you want to have happening on the power play: You want to win faceoffs, you want to make sure your entries are clean, and you want to make sure you set up in the zone and spending time in the zone. Ultimately, the most important thing is whether you are generating chances.

From that perspective, we have done quite well. We are entering the zone at a very high rate, setting up at a very high rate, and spending time in the zone. In the last three games, we have generated 11 high-danger chances in the slot, which are hard to come by.

We haven’t converted. We only have one goal to show for it. Some of it is looking for way to put our players in positions where we can convert perhaps easier and better. At the same time, we also have to trust it and stay with it. The things you are trying to do to put yourself in a position to generate chances — in the last two games, in particular — have been there. They have been present for us. We need to be able to convert on those opportunities.

One out of 11 high-danger chances in tight to the net… We have been in those spots and haven’t converted. We have to stay with it and trust it but also continue to work at it and adjust.