“We are certainly not confused”

Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs

Following Monday’s practice, Sheldon Keefe discussed his team’s mood and state of mind after a resounding Game 4 loss at Tampa Bay and the benefits of returning home for Game 5.

How is the atmosphere of the group the day after the defeat of match 4?

Keefe: The atmosphere is great. The guys are excited.

Did you have the opportunity to watch the film and identify what needed to be worked on last night?

Keefe: Of course there are. There are in every game. Certainly, last night there were things that we know we can execute better in different places. Now we come to a point in the series where both teams know what to expect. It’s about going out and running.

Has the emphasis been on rest with some of the trips here?

Keefe: For sure. A day like today is truly a recovery day. We arrived quite late last night. Again, you’re now at the point in the series where it cost the guys a lot.

A recovery day is important. Every upcoming match is of extreme importance and will require even more focus, energy and all that kind of stuff.

How important is it to have the latest change in matches?

Keefe: I think it’s important for sure. There are things out there that will definitely help us. Now the depth that they have both in defense and forward mitigates some of that because they have their through lines – or their second, third, fourth lines – that have given them really good minutes and have been a handful for us at different times in the playoffs.

When they’re on the road, they tend to move their D around a lot. That kind of stuff is in play. The most important thing for us, really, is getting on the ice at home and coming home with our audience tomorrow. We’ll love playing in a big hockey game, and obviously that’s the one where we need a good response.

How do you get to a point where special teams are less important in the game?

Keefe: Special teams will always be a factor. In our games in the series – and it seems to be in the whole league – there have been a lot of power plays and shorthandedness. Even if there aren’t any, each becomes all the more important to take advantage of, whether killing or scoring.

Last night we took penalties which we didn’t like. For the most part, most of them came when it was already 4-0 up and pretty much out of control. It is important to do what you can. You have to adapt to arbitration.

We know exactly what to expect at this point in terms of how things were called. We just have to continue not to give them reason to impose sanctions on us.

How do you ensure that the magnitude of this moment, knowing what has happened in the past, does not affect this opportunity in front of you tomorrow?

Keefe: I think it’s just about focusing on what we can control, which is being excited about having a chance to compete tomorrow. This is the atmosphere that I feel from our team. To me, no matter how you lose the game last night, you lose the game. In the playoffs, you have to wash that away and prepare for the next one.

We reacted well when we lost previously. We lost hard at home and went out on the road at a time when you could say it’s a big game at that time. You need an answer. You don’t want to put yourself in a position to lose two on the road when you’ve already lost one at home.

It was a huge victory for us at a key moment. You step into the game and want to rise to the occasion. All of a sudden, before you know it, you’re up 3-0 and feeling pretty good about what you did there.

I think there’s enough for our team – focusing on this season here and now – to have enormous faith in our team. More importantly, they are just thrilled to have the chance to compete against a very good and challenging opponent. We think our guys will respond tomorrow.

You were talking about the positivity to come. Where does this come from right now?

Keefe: We have been a very good team all year. Every time we’ve been challenged, whether it’s in the regular season or even in this playoff series, we’ve responded very well.

This series itself and the adversary itself were a challenge. We had a terrific Game 1 and established ourselves in the series. Throughout, our team reacted well. Because of this, we have great conviction.

It doesn’t change the opponent and the challenge ahead of us, but we’re certainly not fazed by last night. We believe in our group and are excited to play the rest of the series here starting tomorrow.

The phrase “start on time” comes up all the time. As the series goes on, however, it seems that the team that scores first doesn’t lose it. Do you insist even more on this knowing this?

Keefe: I don’t know if we can emphasize that more than we have in the four games now. Obviously, it is important. At the same time, you want to stay focused.

It’s one thing for us to go down 1-0. It’s another thing to snowball. You can come back from 1-0. Neither team has been able to do so at this stage. I don’t know what you could attribute it to.

It’s a bit of an anomaly, I’d say, but if you look around the league, it seems like that’s how a lot of games went in terms of the twist. It’s been a funny year that way in terms of goals scored.

Focusing only on tomorrow for us, we want, of course, to have a good start and build from there. Anyway, no matter what happens in the game, we have to stay focused and not be distracted.

Have you decided on any line-up changes for tomorrow?

Keefe: I made no decision here on the lineup. We have time today and tomorrow. We will use it and make our decisions afterwards.

With the way the show has been called, is it hard to go back to Wayne Simmonds and/or Kyle Clifford on the fourth line?

Keefe: I don’t think that’s necessarily how it was called. I know Simmer took a few penalties there, but generally speaking it wasn’t the physique that was called. It’s the hooks, the stumbles, the high sticks, the whips – that sort of thing – that’s been called out at this point.

I don’t think that really comes into play. We have to make decisions based on what we think is the best group to help us win the game.

How is Rasmus Sandin progressing? Is it close to being an option?

Keefe: He is close. I would say he is in good health. It is available at this point. Obviously, his training workload and that sort of thing is not at the level required to fall in this series. But he’s definitely an option for us in case we need more depth.

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