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 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the ECQF playoff series.

On his immediate feelings after the crushing OT loss:

Obviously, the series is very close. It is the thinnest of margins you can get—Game 7 overtime. It is very disappointing not to come out on the right side of it. I loved how our team fought to put us in this position to compete, play in this game, and have a chance to be one shot away.

Reflecting on the series, you don’t love the hole we dug ourselves, right? It is a big reason why we are here. But I loved the fight of our team. Tough circumstances, being down like we were. Guys were in and out of the lineup and such. The group pulled together to give us a chance. I love and appreciate that part of our group.

It is a tough one to lose. Tough way to go.

On Auston Matthews’ determination to play in Game 7 at less than full health: 

I appreciate it. He did all he could to get himself ready, be ready, and play less than 100%. Going into the game, I am sure he wasn’t sure how it was going to go for him, but he wanted to be there. All that considered, I thought he did a good job for us tonight.

On the sequence of events leading to Ilya Samsonov starting Game 7:

Joe was injured late in the game the other night in Game 6. We didn’t practice yesterday, but we traveled, and it wasn’t any better. In fact, it was a little bit worse yesterday.

We told Samsonov that he had to stay ready last night. There was a chance that Joe wouldn’t be able to go, but Joe was going to do all he could to try to be ready. The medical team was going to continue to work with him to get him ready. That is the process they went through this morning.

They went on the ice, and again, Joe was trying to do everything he could to be available for the team tonight. Ultimately, he just wasn’t able to play. We had to go to Sammy, who I noticed—the night before and this morning—went through parts of the routine as though he was playing. At that time, we still thought Joe was going to play.

It really wasn’t until this afternoon that it was determined that Joseph wouldn’t be available.

On what gives him continued belief the team’s core group could break through:

We have been talking about this for a long time. We have been trying to break through for a long time now. Any answer is going to fall on deaf ears in that sense, and I get that.

All I would say is that the group pulled together. The way it pulled together in this last week and through this season… This group was different this year. The core that you are referring to wasn’t different. The group around them was different. The feeling was different. We played different.

In this series, I thought we showed signs of a team that could win. We look at this team, and we have a core group of guys with some young guys who are really coming. Maybe that is a little bit disconnected right now in terms of the young guys coming to support, but there are a lot of good things happening — and that happened in this series with how the team played, bought into a plan, and found success to give us a chance to compete here.

We came up just short tonight, but there are reasons for me to believe that this team will win.

On the biggest challenge generating offense in the series:

They are a very structured team. They do a very good job through the neutral zone. They protect their net as well or better than most teams in the NHL. They were content to do that.

It is very evident that when teams play the Leafs, they set up the game for the Leafs to beat themselves. I thought we did that in Game 3 and Game 4. We beat ourselves with how we played at home. Parts of Game 1 were like Game 3 and Game 4, but the way we played in Game 2, Game 5, and Game 6 was a way we could win, and we won three games in the series. We didn’t beat ourselves.

It makes it hard to get offense with that plan. Two teams are playing patiently. You are trying to challenge to push to score but not sacrifice or open up the game to do so. We showed great patience in that regard. Especially with the way this team counters — and even with how we played, they were still able to counter and get lots in transition — it doesn’t allow for a lot to happen.

You have to really be patient and earn your offense. You need your special teams to be the difference. They weren’t able to be that. Our penalty kill really came along and did a nice job for us in these last three games, but power plays were hard to come by late in the series. The power play was fine tonight, but it didn’t give us the goal that we needed.