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

Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after the Maple Leafs’ 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of the ECQF playoff series.

On the turnaround in the last couple of wins:

I just think the guys have competed and worked incredibly hard. They’ve pulled together. They’ve fought, you know? They didn’t lay down and accept their fate. They changed it.

They have been tremendous in terms of their work ethic. Even tonight, we didn’t play a perfect game by any means, but the guys worked. In the first period, we gave up one shot. It was not a perfect period—they had some looks—but the way that we defended to deny anything clean getting to our net was tremendous.

On the team’s strong defensive effort since they went down 3-1 in the series:

I think it is a reflection of the character of the group, right?

You can look at the way we performed in Game 4, which essentially put us in this situation. You can focus on that as perhaps a reflection of our character. But as I challenged the group and talked to the group about, when your back is against the wall and you are challenged the way that you are — you are facing elimination — you are going to be remembered one way or the other. How do you want that to be and to look?

The guys pulled together here and found ways to win. We have been talking a lot about how it takes what it takes. Whether it is us being comfortable winning 1-0, if that is what it is going to take, it is what it is going to take.

The guys worked incredibly hard. It was not a perfect game, and when we made mistakes, Woll was incredible. All of that comes together, and you find a way to win a tight game like this again.

On William Nylander stepping up with the season on the line:

Incredible. Big-time stuff.

That is what you are looking for from a player of his calibre. In the first game that he played, you could kind of feel that it wasn’t even close to what Willy is capable of. You could see him working his way back to not just playing but playing in a series of this calibre. This is tough. There is not a lot of free ice out there.

You could feel the momentum building. We all know Willy as a guy who has come through for us in the playoffs. He finds a way. He was outstanding tonight—not just on the two goals, but he competed extremely hard off the puck and defended really hard.

It was a tremendous effort by him—and not just him. Because of his ability, when he plays like that, offense finds him. But we didn’t have any passengers tonight. Everyone was really good.

On the confidence Joseph Woll is breathing into the team:

He hasn’t made any mistakes. Because of that, we have stayed in games. There is nothing that has gone in that shouldn’t have. It has given the group confidence. You need that right now.

Again, tonight, it is such a tight game. It is such a tight game in Game 5. You are facing elimination. If you make some mistakes there, it is curtains.  It has given the group confidence. It has been tremendous to see.

There were two shots against in the first period of the first game that he played, and it was one shot tonight. The guys are also competing for him and giving him every opportunity to find his way in the series. He is rewarding them. When there are breakdowns, he has been great.

It has been tremendous for us. Making the decision to make the switch… Sammy was terrific for us in Game 2. This is Joe’s opportunity now. When goaltending performs like that in games where the margins are so thin, it makes a huge difference.

The games and the series have been so tight in a lot of ways because of the goaltending at the other end. It has been hard for us to get offense, finish our chances, and get the puck over the line. Their goalie has been really good. Woll has come in and matched that.

On Woll staying sharp despite only one shot against in the first period:

It is terrific. It’s maybe good practice because he had two the game before. He was sort of used to that.

I will say that there was one shot in that first period, but he had to work. There was stuff around the crease where the puck was moving. The way we defended and recovered from “almost chances” prevented the puck from getting to the net cleanly, but he is still moving and reading.

In fact, they had just as many shot attempts as we had in that first period. We defended and didn’t allow the puck to get to the net clean. He was still in the game and engaged. That would be helpful.

But goalies do like to touch and feel the puck. They like to look up and see the shot clock is growing and their efforts are being rewarded statistically.

Once they started to make their push—which we knew they would—in the second period, pucks were getting to him, and we left some guys alone at the net. He looked extremely solid and confident. The bottom of the net was taken care of extremely well, and he read the play tremendously.

On whether Matthew Knies is playing the best hockey of his young NHL career:

I thought Kniesy was really, really good for us in that Tampa series last year. I barely knew the guy, and he was tremendous. But I do think it is going to another level here with the confidence that he has shown.

The play that he made to send Willy in tonight is one of the great plays and strong plays he made along the wall. He has been really good in this series and is just getting better. A guy with his skill set and size, when he gets confident and comfortable in this type of environment, is a great thing.

We miss Bobby McMann. He makes us a better team with the way he has played for us, but Knies has found another level. As Bobby got better in the regular season, Kniesy was starting to get pushed down a little bit. It was a bit of a competition going on there.

Like Domi stepping in for Auston being out, or Knies for McMann, these guys have stepped in. Kniesy has done a tremendous job. It has been fun to watch.

The sky is the limit for a guy like him. He is a lot to handle out there. When he is playing like that, you can see how effective he is.

On the emotions of coaching in a Game 7:

In my mind, we just played two Game 7s. It is an elimination game.

Tonight, the crowd was tremendous. It was so loud in there. My voice is starting to go on me just due to line changes and trying to communicate with the guys. It was really, really loud.

I am not sure how it feels up top, but at ice level, there is a lot coming down on us. You have to override that to communicate with the guys. You are trying to stay calm and help the group stay calm. It is hard to do so if you have to scream as loud as you can at them.

In terms of what it feels like, it feels like what we just went through. Every single play matters. You expect it to be tight.

At the end of the day, all we have earned is another date on the schedule. As good as this feels and as proud of the group as you are for the effort they’ve put forth, the results that they’ve gotten, and how we have performed in these last few games to earn the next one, all we have done is earned that one. Boston has had this game essentially on the schedule all the way through.

For the first time, we will go into Boston and everything is all the same in terms of both teams facing elimination.