Sheldon Keefe, playoff press conference

After Monday’s practice, Sheldon Keefe discussed Auston Matthews’ injury status, the decision in net for Game 5, and preparation for a do-or-die game in Boston.

Practice Lines – Apr. 29

How is Auston Matthews, and what is his status moving forward?

Keefe: He didn’t practice today. His status is yet to be determined. He will travel tomorrow.

How much can it be a rallying point for the team, knowing the team has responded well to key absences all year?

Keefe: Of course, we are hopeful that Auston is available, feeling good, and back to himself. We are hopeful for that, but we have played well with guys out in the past. We started the series without Willy, and we had to deal with that. In the regular season, it was the same kind of thing. We will see what tomorrow brings.

If you do end up with the lineup from Monday’s practice, what do you like about Max Domi in the middle with Tyler Bertuzzi and Mitch Marner?

Keefe: Well, he has played center for a lot this season. He has done well with Mitch. He has done well when we have had guys out. Whether it is Auston or John, Max played in that spot and did a nice job for us when they were out. He is a very versatile guy who can do different things and play different positions with different types of players. It was an easy decision to shift him over there in the third period of the game the other night.

What is the key to making sure the players don’t approach the circumstances as too big to overcome, and keep the focus on what you can control?

Keefe: It is about continuing to focus on what you can control, which is today’s practice and talking through our adjustments — the things we want to do better or differently going into tomorrow’s game. In that sense, you prepare for it as you would any other game. There is only one game on the schedule right now. Let’s keep the focus on that and earning the next one.

What changes do you want to see on the power play?

Keefe: We want the power play to come through for us. In Game 2 and Game 3, I thought there was a lot to like about the power play except for the fact that it never got over the line. It generated a lot of good looks for us. Pucks were bouncing around the crease with some open nets. We were not able to connect on it and put it home.

The other night, we never really got started, especially on the first power play of the game, which was a chance for us to gain momentum. You are looking for the power play to gain positive momentum for the team and ultimately make a difference in terms of getting one in for us. That would go a long way.

Sometimes, the puck does not go in or won’t go in, but you have to make sure you are generating positive momentum for the team. That is what we did in Game 2 and Game 3. We took a step backward in that regard in Game 4. We have to be better.

Other than the power play, is there something about the team’s Game 2 performance that you can emphasize specifically ahead of Game 5?

Keefe: In both Game 1 and Game 2, there were a lot of good things we did on the road in terms of how we played, how we executed the plan, and how we stuck with the plan. That would be really important for us: continuing to embrace the things we knew were going to be important coming into the series, and then also making some adjustments we have been making as the series moves along and the opposition adjusts. We have to execute those things, stick with the plan, and trust it.

Special teams and goaltending are two areas we have to be better in. They are connected in a lot of ways. They have had the edge in those areas in the series, and it is tough to overcome. Coming out of Game 4, it was very evident that they have steps in that area. We have to take steps there.

Who will start in goal for Game 5?

Keefe: We will find out tomorrow.

What did you like about how Joseph Woll responded when he was thrown into the series last spring against Florida?

Keefe: He managed it well. It didn’t seem to be too big of a moment for him. The other night, he went in and was calm. He did a good job for us.

Sammy has done well in this series. He has bounced back well at times when we needed him to—coming out of Game 1 into Game 2 was a really good example. But there are areas we need to improve in. Getting more saves at critical times is a big part of that. They are getting a lot at the other end.

How important is the start to Game 5 after starting some of these other games slowly?

Keefe: It is important for sure. I looked at it, and he started pretty well in Game 3. We scored first in Game 3, but we didn’t win that game. We didn’t score first in Game 2 on the road. It is a 60-minute game that we have to be really good at.

Even the other night, as we said, we were not playing the greatest. We didn’t start the greatest. We gave up three shots in the first 15 minutes of the third period. We were fine in the game. You don’t take care of the rest of the period, and they get one.

[A strong] start would be good. We want to be feeling good, build some confidence, and get after the game. We also have to recognize it is 60 minutes, whether we start well, they get a push at home, or whatever it is. We have to be prepared that it is going to be a 60-minute battle, and we have to find a way to prevail.