Q. Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun: Joe Thornton described that as a real fun game for everyone, but at times were you a little concerned about what was going on in the back end with your team?
Sheldon Keefe: It’s the first game of the season here, first time playing a game at that tempo. We just had a pretty emotional comeback win here for our first so I’m not going to get too nitpicky. We’ll get better everyday.
Q. Mark Masters, TSN: Sheldon, the puck really seems to be exploding off Nylander’s stick early days here. What sort of improvements do you think he’s made since last season?
Sheldon Keefe: I don’t know, he was a pretty explosive player last season too. He’s a great talent. I think he’s come in really motivated and driven to continue to be a difference maker and to take it to another level. We’ve had a lot of pretty blunt discussions between he and I about where he needs to continue to get better away from the puck. He’s bought into that. I think it goes hand-in-hand. When he’s competing away from the puck, he’s more engaged when he has it, he’s more involved in the game. He was really good today. He and John were both really good.
Q. Luke Fox, Sportsnet: What were your first impressions of Joe alongside Mitch and Auston?
Sheldon Keefe: I thought they were good. I have to watch the video back for all our lines and the whole game, but I thought when he got the puck he put it in good spots, he made a play with it, he was around the net at different times. He came up with a couple of pucks on the forecheck. He looked like he had legs even through the third period. I was watching him, he had some really good tracks and returns back into our own end to have lots of legs and energy despite playing a lot the way the game went. I thought it was a good game for him.
Q. Luke Fox, Sportsnet: How’s Auston doing? He seemed to be in a bit of pain right before the overtime?
Sheldon Keefe: I think he just took a bit of a stinger. My understanding is he’s okay. He didn’t hesitate when I asked him if he was good to go for overtime.
Q. Steve Simmons, Toronto Sun: First season opener for you in your home building under very different circumstances. What did that feel like?
Sheldon Keefe: Once the game starts you’re caught up in it and, I’ll be honest, it just feels like hockey. The guys are competing, you’re into it. When you’re coaching behind the bench you’re making a decision every couple of seconds. You’re too engaged in it to really get caught up in it. I think once the puck drops it just feels like we’re in a game. I think the start of the game, before it really gets going, especially in a home opener like this is where you really felt the no fans. I believe the home opener, in particular for your new players, your incoming guys, it’s a great opportunity for them to connect with the fans and the fans to recognize them, in particular in our situation, of course, with guys like Joe and [Simmonds] coming back here to Toronto and Ontario. You miss out on those kinds of moments. We miss our fans in such a fun, back and forth type of game like this. It would have been nice, of course, to have them here. We’re going to have to get used to this, this is what we’ve got. Hopefully we’re able to entertain people at home.
Q. Kristen Shilton, TSN: What did you like about your line tonight and how you guys were able to gel in this first game?
William Nylander: Well I think we did a good job. It was more of a grind game. We didn’t really get that many clean looks. So, I think we were relentless and when we gave up that goal, we were able to get one back which was huge.
Q. Kevin McGran, Toronto Star: What did you make of Wayne Simmonds dropping the gloves there and maybe turning things around for you guys a little bit?
William Nylander: Yeah, that was a turning point in the game, for sure. He got the boys going, fired up. I think we were a little soft and slow in the beginning and after that we got fired up and got going which was huge.
Q. Kevin McGran, Toronto Star: What about your own shooting tonight? Those were a couple of real nice shots. Anything going through your heads in those particular moments?
William Nylander: The first one was just a great job by the guys getting to the net. Price couldn’t see the puck. And the second one was just waiting, waiting and looking for a pass and just put it on net.
Q. Kevin McGran, Toronto Star: And what about Jimmy Vesey tonight with the goal that forces overtime?
William Nylander: Yeah, it was huge. We were heavy on the forecheck there. We were able to get Price – lucky bounce though but it was a nice goal to get for us, for sure.
Q. Kevin McGran, Toronto Star: Your thoughts on how this game went and your own play tonight?
Morgan Rielly: I think it was a good game to play in, good game to watch, good way to open the year with a win. They’re a good team, they came out and played hard. It’s what we expected. We’re happy with the win, obviously, and I think we’ve got a lot of areas to get better. We’re going to talk tomorrow on ways we can improve. To open the year with a win, that’s always a good feeling.
Q. Kevin McGran, Toronto Star: What did you think of pairing up with TJ Brodie?
Morgan Rielly: I like playing with TJ, he’s great. I think he’s really good going back for pucks. He’s really good breaking it out, he’s calm with it, that first pass it great. It’s been a pleasure so far, just keep talking, keep trying to make it work better for us.
Q. Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun: Wayne Simmonds told us his fight, he thought the boys needed a spark. How did the boys take that fight on the bench and on the ice?
Morgan Rielly: I think it was awesome. I think that’s what Wayne brings to this group. He’s been doing that in his career for a long time. It’s incredibly valuable. He brings a whole lots of aspects, of great things to our team. The way that he’s able to play and that part of his game, and then his off-ice leadership. He’s incredibly valuable to this team and we’re very, very lucky to have him. He’s hard to play against so it’s nice to have him on our side for once. I think tonight was the perfect example of him taking it upon himself to get the team going and that’s exactly what happened.
Q. Kevin McGran, Toronto Star: What did you feel of your performance tonight and the team’s performance tonight?
Wayne Simmonds: I thought we chased the game a little bit, but I thought we showed great character and the comeback. We kept coming back and we made it tough on them. At the end of the game we ended up with two points, obviously. It’s most important we build off of our mistakes and keep in mind what we did good, but at the same time, like I said, we build off of our mistakes and we continue to get better day after day here.
Q. Kevin McGran, Toronto Star: There’s usually nerves when a player comes to a team for the first time, plays his first game, maybe fans have something to do with that. How did you feel?
Wayne Simmonds: I was fine. I’ve been around the last year. I think this is my fifth team in the last year. I’m comfortable coming to new surroundings, the boys made it really easy for me to integrate within the team. I was just really excited for the game tonight to be honest.
Q. Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun: Obviously, you’re brought in for your physicality, we all know that, you know that is part of your game. Probably not going to scrap every night, but how did it feel to drop the gloves there, as short as the fight was. From these eyes, and others saw a bit of a turning point for your club in the second period.
Wayne Simmonds: Yeah. It felt good. That’s my first real game action in like 10 months, 28 days, and I can probably tell you to the second. It felt really good and I thought the boys needed a little bit of a spark there. I know my role on this team. I asked Chiarot and I didn’t think he wanted to go at first, but then he dropped the gloves before me so it was green light, go. I’m happy he gave me that one and helped turn the tide for our team.
On his first game as a Maple Leaf:
Joe Thornton: Wasn’t that fun? It was great. Great game, boys were down early but we managed to come back and what a great finish by Mo. I think the 40-plus players and coaches really enjoyed being out there again.
Q. Chris Johnston, Sportsnet: What was the most fun part for you?
Joe Thornton: Just starting, hearing ‘Number 97 from St. Thomas, Ontario,’ you can’t beat that. Just competing again, competing with the guys, getting good looks, good passing, the competition again was nice to have.
Q. Mark Masters, TSN: You mentioned the finish by Morgan there. What stood out to you the most about Rielly since you’ve been around him?
Joe Thornton: He just competes. I think his skating is very elite, he’s a big body, great shot, sees the ice very, very well. Being from out west, really we don’t watch too much East games, but he’s been very, very impressive.