Q. Josh Clipperton, The Canadian Press: What have you liked about your team and how have they grown in these one goal games so far this season?
Sheldon Keefe: I like the way that we’ve found ways to come out on the positive side of it when it counts the most. Whether it’s how many games now we’ve had a really big penalty kill very late in the game with the game on the line, we find our way through those. We gave up the lead and then we bounce right back and get it and then make sure we finish the job. That’s been a theme. I like that. I think the thing I like most of all, for the most part, we’ve defended really well as a team, not perfect, but we’ve defended — I guess well maybe is not the right term, we’ve defended hard.
The guys are working in and have really significantly cut down on the high danger chances and odd-man rushes. The players have been really committed to that. It’s been far from perfect. We’ve got a lot of areas to grow. We’re not even close to being the team that I think we can be and the team that we would need to be, but a lot of positive things that have gotten us to be 7-2. I think the greatest news of all is that none of the games have been perfect and there’s lots of room for growth still.
Q. Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun: Sheldon, specifically tonight, what do you think of the team’s performance, especially when it got a little bizarre there towards the end with all the penalties?
Sheldon Keefe: I really liked our first period, liked a lot of things about it, liked how we defended. Again, offensively, we didn’t have a great deal, but we defended real well, they broke loose a couple times and it was really just as a result of some of our mistakes with the puck. When we make mistakes with the puck, like they do as a team, the Oilers, they transition very well and that’s when their best players come alive. When it was time to defend, we didn’t give them anything in the first period at all.
The same thing in the second period. When we made it hard on ourselves and we gave them the puck back they got some life, but, for the most part — I didn’t like the third goal, the Kassian goal. I didn’t like that goal defensively, but aside from that our team’s defended really well. Ultimately that’s why we’re sitting where we are. There’s a lot of things within our process of how we play with the puck that can improve and obviously we have to stay out of the penalty box. The penalties have been crazy. It’s just not good enough.
Q. Kevin McGran, Toronto Star: Lots will be made, of course, of the guys that scored tonight, but Morgan Riley had a terrific game. He looks really like he did two years ago. You didn’t see that firsthand. What have you thought of the way Morgan is as a healthy defenceman, as opposed to the guy that was a bit sidelined last year?
Sheldon Keefe: I think he’s skating really well. I think these three Oiler games that we’ve played, in particular, he’s played for the most part against McDavid, he and Brodie, and that’s a matchup that a year ago he wouldn’t have had. Now we’ve given him that and he’s taken that on and I think he’s done a really good job with it. He’s still played his game offensively, but he’s defended fast and hard and competitive. He’s been really good.
Q. Mark Masters, TSN: Sheldon, other than the fact that it’s scoring so often, what have you liked the most about how the power play is operating to start the year?
Sheldon Keefe: I just like that the guys have adjusted well whether it’s Simmonds going in on the net front, whether it’s the fact that, for the most part, we’ve used two competitive units and spread it out, and the guys have adjusted well with that, whether when Jumbo was there, it was going well, and now Kerfoot’s come in and he’s done well.
Times when we’ve put the two units together and put Tavares, Nylander, Matthews and Marner together, those guys have done well as a group. Whatever we’ve done, the players have responded well, and in a season with no exhibition and very limited practice time that’s a really, really good, positive thing. Credit to the players for executing and for Manny for the plan that he’s put together for those guys.
Sheldon Keefe: Yeah, I think the rest is important. We’ve got to try to manage that when we can when it comes to Spezz. I thought he gave us some good things here today, whether it was power play, obviously got us a goal, that line had some good shifts at different times. I think he needs to not take that penalty, but whenever we called on him today, power play, faceoffs, 5-on-5, he did a good job. That’s what you’re looking for in terms of the depth on your team.
Q. Joshua Clipperton, Canadian Press: What have you liked about your team in one goal games this year?
Frederik Andersen: It’s just finding a way. I think it’s big, that’s how you get points by not letting them tie the game up late and, I think, sticking with the process even though it’s a game that goes back and forth. Obviously, we don’t want to put ourselves in that situation every time we have a lead, but from what I’ve seen so far I like the way we keep playing. Our resiliency has been good.
Q. Joshua Clipperton, Canadian Press: It was sort of a weird game with all the penalties, momentum shifts, what did you see from where you sat?
Frederik Andersen: Yeah exactly, a lot of calls, a lot of opportunities for both teams to score on special teams. I think that was huge for us again. Just answering when they tied it up and we go right down and score on our power play. That was big and, again, shows you the resiliency and not letting those momentum swings bother us too much.
Q. Josh Clipperton, Canadian Press: You guys only had 10 one-goal victories last year. You’re already at your fifth and Mitch also scored an empty-netter with less than a second left, which would have been a sixth. What have you seen differently with the group in terms of how you’ve been able to battle in these tight games?
Auston Matthews: I think we just, as a five man unit as well as Fred, try to keep it tight back there and limit their chances, limit them to the outside, and just do the best job that we can.
Q. Mark Masters, TSN: A bit of a weird game with all of the special teams time tonight. What’s your sense of how the team handled it and got it done eventually when the powerplay chances did come your way?
Auston Matthews: We got the win which is all that matters. Obviously, a lot of disruptive flow, I think. We’re taking way too many penalties right now but special teams came up big. A couple big penalty kills. A couple of big power play goals for us and sometimes that’s the way the game goes, special teams have got to come through. Obviously, we squeak out with this one but some guys came up with big plays on both ends for us tonight and Freddie was a brick wall for us as well.
Q. Mark Masters, TSN: What’s standing out to you about the power play to start the season? What’s making it so effective?
Auston Matthews: I think we’ve been flowing pretty nice with these two units. We’re moving it well. I just think the biggest thing is that when we need a goal it seems like we’re coming through. It’s obviously a positive for us and special teams is a big part of the game so we just want to continue that momentum.
Q. Kevin McGran, Toronto Star: What have you liked about the way Morgan has been playing this year?
Auston Matthews: I love it. He’s a huge part of this team. When he’s healthy like he is right now, he’s an elite defenceman. Plays a huge role for us. It’s always fun getting out there with him when he’s moving the way he is and the way he can, getting involved on both ends of the ice, it just makes our jobs easier in all three zones. He’s been doing an awesome job for us. Like I said, he’s a huge part of this team so obviously we’re very lucky to have him.
Q. Mark Masters, TSN: How did you how did you feel coming into this game? You feel like the legs were fresher? How did you feel?
Jason Spezza: Sheldon told me that it’s been a lot of hockey in a short period of time, thought I could benefit from a day of rest and with a day off yesterday, it gave me some time to recover. Obviously, he was right. I felt good tonight and a little bit extra jump. It’s good when things like that work out.
Q. Kevin McGran, Toronto Star: Jason, have you seen this team mature in your time with them? You guys look a little bit more confident, look a little bit more structured, it’s mostly the same players. What’s the difference in your mind?
Jason Spezza: I think there’s definitely a belief that’s growing within our group. We feel like we can still do better when we have leads, we’ve had lots of leads and given a few up, but been resilient and find a way to be gritty and just get wins at the end. Winning breeds confidence and we’re starting to believe that we can win every night. That’s a good feeling for a team, but we still feel like there’s little ways we can go to locking games down better, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Q. Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun: Jason in the bigger picture, Sheldon’s wanted to bring the fourth line guys in and out to utilize the taxi squad. That seems to have been working, certainly, in this little streak you’re on. Could you comment on that?
Jason Spezza: As a player, you just get yourself ready to play. When you’re told to play, you try to play and do your role. Obviously, you like to play every night, but you have to respect the coach’s decisions. When you’re not playing, you’ve got to take the rest and make sure you’re ready to go. For us on the fourth line, we want to be able to give good shifts, we want to be able to help out when we can, and really try to drive possession and make sure that we’re setting the other lines up for good shifts, too. It’s an important role, and you have to stay in the game. I thought tonight we did a good job and just keep moving forward.