HEAD COACH SHELDON KEEFE
On tonight’s game:
I really liked our start in the game. Once again, we find a way to play with a lead. Obviously, that’s an area we want to be good at and we want to set ourselves up to win games. Certainly, the focus once again — it went beyond the third period, of course, that’s when the puck goes in the net — but, to me, it gets away on us in the second period. It doesn’t end up in our net, necessarily. We get two elite plays by Auston [Matthews] that give us some goals and give us a cushion there, but I didn’t like a lot of our game in the second period in terms of how we took care of the puck and forced the issue a little bit. And then it just catches up with us a little bit the third period there. While at the same time, I think it gets a little bit louder in the third because the puck ends up in the net — the penalty kill goal and Eichel gets behind us there. The third goal is one that stands out to me as a real negative for us, a lot of sloppy play there. That was more of what we saw, I thought, in the second period.
On trying to balance attacking play with defending a lead:
Yeah, that’s what we’re talking about, we’re fine with that a lot. As I’ve said, we’ve been able to play with the lead a lot here in my time I’ve been here. We’ve had the lead a lot and we’ve put ourselves in these positions a lot. I think in that we’re showing where the next phase is for us as a team. I think the team played from behind a lot early in the season and now we’re playing with a lead a lot. There’s a lot of areas there we’ve got to be a little more purposeful and a little more intelligent with what we do with the puck. I think we have real potential to really control the game in those periods of time, but we’re not there yet.
On the performance of the Nylander-Matthews-Kapanen line:
I thought they were good. I didn’t like, of course, the third goal. Couldn’t get the puck out and you get caught out there tired and when you get out there tired, you’re going to have defensive breakdowns. But I thought they had the puck a lot more today, a lot more time in the offensive zone. The goals were elite and that’s what you come to expect when he has those opportunities like that — finish — and he made no mistake. That really puts us in a position to win the game. He did his job.
On the team’s ability to win while he’s making adjustments to the style of play:
I think it just speaks to the potential of the team because we’re still nowhere near what I think we can look like and what we’re capable of, but we’re doing a lot of good things. The penalty kill lets one in here today, but we get a huge kill late in the game. So, special teams have been better there. The power play had some looks and had some chances. I think we can get a little bit better there as well. Playing with the lead, getting the lead — a lot of good, positive things that we’ve seen. Yet, I still think there’s a long way for the team to go and continue to grow.
TYSON BARRIE (2 ASSISTS)
On playing tonight after missing most of Saturday’s game against Edmonton:
Yeah, it was good. We didn’t skate this morning either, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to feel but thankfully it felt really good. Hopefully that’s behind me.
On the team getting off to a strong start:
I think we’re putting ourselves in good position, got up early, but we’ve got to find a way to control that lead. Still play solid defence but find a way to continue to carry the play and stay in the O-zone. That will be a focus for us but obviously anytime you get a 3-0 lead is big.
On the defence being active in the offensive zone:
It’s tough. I think we play against it and when the D is active and kind of rolling around the O-zone it’s really tough to sort out who’s who. You’re going to get some open looks, [Rielly] found me with a good pass — I think I just missed it — but it’s a lot of fun too. I think it suits our team well.
AUSTON MATTHEWS (2 GOALS)
On what the team did well in transition to lead to his goals:
Well, I think for us, you get rush opportunities when you’re good without the puck and in good positions. I think you just pick up the players, you’re in good spots and you’re able to catch them on odd-man rushes. So, a couple of those plays, especially my second goal, just a really nice play by Willy [Nylander] to get the zone entry and pull up and find me, the late guy coming in.
On if he liked the team’s resilience to keep pushing back when Buffalo gained momentum:
Yeah, I think we’d like to do a better job and not let it get as close as it did. But I think it’s all about the process that we’re going through to make sure that when we’re playing with a lead that we’re taking care of the puck and trying not to change too much in our game. Obviously, sometimes you’ve got to live to fight another day in certain areas of the game and on certain plays.
JOHN TAVARES (9 SHOT ATTEMPTS)
On what he liked about tonight’s game:
Well, I think when we come back well through the middle of the ice and get above them and let our [defence] be able to stay up, we have a great transition type of team. In the first half of the game, I think we did a lot of good things. Even on the cycle and in-zone and generating some offense and some puck possession, but I think we’d like to be a little better, especially the second half of the game. As we start to play with some more leads, which we have and is a good sign and something we want to keep doing, we obviously want to continue to take the game, control it and continue to increase our lead if we can and make the opponent have to defend. Overall, we stuck with it and a good win.
On how the game feels different when playing with the lead:
Well I think the other team has to chase it a little bit. You know, we can just stick to what we’re doing and be aggressive, but we can be patient with our game. Just really try not to give them much room or anything easy and really have to force anything. Just stay with it and build on what we’re doing well.