Sheldon Keefe, playoff press conference

Ahead of Game 4, Sheldon Keefe discussed Nick Robertson remaining in the lineup over Connor Dewar with William Nylander’s return, TJ Brodie taking Timothy Liljegren’s spot in Game 4, and the latest on Bobby McMann.

With Nick Robertson down on the fourth line, what are you expecting from the line tonight?

Keefe: Just keep doing the things that they’ve been doing. Nick has to find his place on that line. We need Kampf and Reavo to keep doing what they have been doing and be themselves. I need Nick to be himself.

There is a reason why [Robertson] is remaining in the lineup. We think he can provide us with offense. Offense is hard to come by, and goals are hard to come by. I think he has done a good job in this series. It is not just that he has proven he can score over his hockey-playing life or in the regular season. He has done a good job in the series. He has found ways to create chances in low minutes. We think he can make a difference that way.

It was not an easy decision whatsoever. Dewar has done a tremendous job in his own place with what he have asked of him. Tough decision. We are preparing for Willy to play at this point, and with that being the case, you have to make a lineup change while weighing all of the different things. This is a look we want to go with.

You want that line to keep doing what they’ve been doing. It’s really important that Nick finds his way on it. Maybe the line can be even better.

Is it safe to say TJ Brodie is coming in and Timothy Liljegren is coming out?

Keefe: We have some game-time decision stuff going on both on forwards and defense. That stuff will play itself out. Right now, Brodie is preparing to play.

If Liljegren is out, why?

Keefe: A couple of things. Again, it is part of the game-time decision situation. We have liked our D pairs. I haven’t liked that (Edmundson-Liljegren) pair as much. That pair hasn’t played to the level of the others. That is part of it.

The other part is that Lily is not 100% healthy, either. There are other things that add up. Brodie is a player who is healthy, rested, and has a ton of experience. If you look at all of those things combined, it makes sense to make a change.

How can Brodie help with the penalty kill tonight?

Keefe: Like everyone else, the guys have to be confident and assertive. What’s happened in the past in the series is irrelevant now. We need to be better from here on. What you are looking for from your penalty kill is to come through in big moments. As much as you want to be perfect, you need to be good in really good spots.

We have done that at times. We had to kill two penalties in the first period of Game 1 and got through that. We had to kill a penalty with the game on the line in Game 2 in the third period. We had to kill a penalty 30 seconds into Game 3 and got through that. We have found our ways through those situations. We need that to continue.

We need to make one fewer mistake here and there. Brodie can hopefully come in and help us with that. Also, with his experience and the confidence he should have in his own ability, he can come in and help us be confident and assertive, even though it hasn’t gone well in certain moments. Also, recognize it has come through for us at really important times already through this series. We need to build on that.

Joel Edmundson mentioned there have been discussions about taking fewer penalties. It is a concern you still have to emphasize that three games into the series?

Keefe: I think we have gotten better in that area. I don’t think that was an issue at all in Game 3 or even in Game 2. I think we have covered that. That part of the series has sort of settled itself or sorted itself out.

How do you want Tyler Bertuzzi to approach Brad Marchand moving forward? Is there any value in backing away from it, or does he have to keep going at him?

Keefe: Bert just has to keep playing. Bert knows how to play. He is a competitor. Both guys are competitors. There is a lot of stuff happening inside of the series. Just play. Don’t get distracted. Just compete and play.

There has been a lot of secrecy on both sides of the series when it comes to lineups and injury situations. Why do you think that is a thing in the NHL when other sports have injury reports and depth charts for playoff games?

Keefe: That’s probably a better question for the league. They set the governance and all of the different rules. If there wasn’t such governance in the other leagues, I don’t think the coaches and players would give things out. That is part of it.

The other part is that because there is no such governance, from my end of it—and I think for all coaches—you are protecting your players. It is a very competitive and physical game. You say guys don’t target one another. I have news for you: They do. That is part of the game. When you can protect the players and protect some information, why wouldn’t you?

How much do you miss Bobby McMann, and is there any update on his status?

Keefe: Of course, we miss him. It was tough news when we knew he wouldn’t be available to start the playoffs. It is the timing of it, too. You kind of had a plan that you are building toward regarding what you are going to look like. You lost him when he had been playing so well for us and had been contributing in so many ways — scoring goals, hard on the forecheck, defensive assignments, penalty killing. He was really building into being a guy who was going to thrive at this time of year. Tough to lose him.

That said, through that, I think Robertson has played extremely well. I think Dewar has played extremely well. Reavo is playing his best hockey. Other guys have really stepped up for us. Knies is playing really well. That line with Tavares and Marner was our best the other night. Other guys have stepped up in his absence, and that has been a positive for us.

We certainly miss him. In terms of an update, he is progressing well. We will start to see him back on the ice soon. In terms of his availability in the series, it is yet to be determined. I know he was feeling a lot better.

How has your approach to conveying your concerns to the series supervisor changed over the years, if it has? What is the most effective way to get the most out of those exchanges? 

Keefe: Every supervisor has their own style. Some are proactive and want to come back and make sure you have nothing. Others say, “Here is my number, and if you want to communicate, reach out.” Each style has been good.

I have found that just because of the time of year—it is emotional, and you have so much going on—I allow the General Managers to handle it. They have a pretty good sense of what is on our minds. If we need support through video for something we have questions about, we ensure they have it.

That is how it has worked in this series. Tre has done that. Bill McCreary came down before Game 1, and we chatted. Since the series began, I have just left that to Tre.