Q. Luke Fox, Sportsnet: Curious what went into the decision to have Jake and Zack wear the As tonight and who were the decision makers on that?
Sheldon Keefe:That’s been in place for quite some time. Before the training camp even began we had the discussion, myself, and Kyle and Shanny, but had the discussion with the players before camp began. My take on last season and getting to know the players and getting to know our leadership group, it’s very clear that Hyman and Muzz are both big parts of our core, big parts of our leadership group. I think our established captains recognize that as well. This just was an opportunity to recognize that. I just thought it makes sense with the additional jerseys that we wear. Just for myself, with all the teams, for the most part, that I’ve coached, I believe in trying to recognize the larger group than just what you’re allowed in a particular game be it a C, and two As. I think you need to recognize more people than that when you can so it was a chance to do that.
Q. James Mirtle, The Athletic: You’re 10 games into the season now, you’re 7-2-1. Who’s been the biggest pleasant surprise on the roster so far this year?
Sheldon Keefe: Well, I really wouldn’t say we’ve had any surprises. I think the guys that we expect to be good have been good. I think that we’ve gotten good performances from the players that have come in here that we’re just getting to know and are still getting comfortable with our system and with their surroundings, and their teammates, and all those kind of things. I wouldn’t say there’s been really any pleasant surprises. I think we’ve met expectations in a lot of ways and there still remains many areas for us to get better.
Q. Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun: You’ve said a few times getting the group to play its best hockey, knowing that without exhibition games that’s not going to happen right away. What does it say about the group that you have won seven of 10 to start? You want the second point tonight but you do get to one instead of none.
Sheldon Keefe: I thought our guys, first of all just on tonight, did a really good job. We haven’t played from behind really since the first game of the season. And then maybe the Ottawa game, I think that’s a little bit of a different type of game, but the games that we’ve been in here of late, we’ve had the lead, and then gave up the lead and then had to get it back again to get our wins.
Today is a little bit different. We had to push back and it was similar to what other teams have done to us on this trip. We’ve had leads, and they’ve come back, and we’ve had to find our way to get a win. I was happy that our guys didn’t get rattled. At the end of the trip that’s gone very well and when fatigue is definitely a factor here with the way it’s been a long road trip, it’s been a busy stretch to get to 10 games here.
The guys pushed back right away and squared the game away. I thought we were pretty good again in the third period, didn’t give up very much, obviously the exception of right at the buzzer, basically, with that point saving save by Fred. We were good there. Then the overtime is, I mean, overtime is what it is, right? We miss our breakaway and they come down and score on their 2-on-1. That’s sort of the way overtimes go.
In relation to the 10 games, we obviously feel really good about the results that we’ve gotten. As I said before, we still think we’ve got a lot of areas we can continue to get better in. That’s exciting for us as a team. We’ve got a chance here now to take a bit of a breath, four days off. What we’ll do is we’ll take tomorrow as a full day off and then our second day, Monday, we’ll have just some mandatory stuff for those who haven’t played as much, but optional for those that have played a lot.
There’s a number of guys I would like to just stay away for a second day as well. Then we get two really good practice days before it heats up again here for us. We have lots to continue to work at in my mind in a lot of ways. I think just the way this lines up here, we didn’t get a traditional exhibition season, obviously, but in my mind with the break here coming now, I think it’s sort of a turning of the page in some sense where we’ve got a pretty good sense of what we are as a group and where we need to go and grow and get better. We expect to bring it to another level when we come back to play after this break.
Q. Kevin McGran, Toronto Star: Mikko Lehtonen gets his first assist tonight, he’s playing a little bit more. Did you see anything more out of him tonight than you have earlier in the games he’s played?
Sheldon Keefe: Once again, he looked really comfortable on the power play, did a good job of delivering that puck to the net. It worked out well for us. I think at 5-on-5, again, it’s tough to find him much rhythm here playing on the road. They’re doing their best to get favourable matchups and they’re looking for it and you’re trying to protect him and keep them away from two of the best players in the world. It makes it hard to find much rhythm there.
I think he still doesn’t look comfortable out there. We’ve put him in two of the last three games here and given him that opportunity. Now we have a break. And we’ll continue to work with him in some areas of development where we’d like to see him really get better now that we’ve got lots of examples and film of him playing in the NHL and where we think he can get better. We’re hoping and expecting for continued progress there.
I think it’s important to point out one thing, just in regards to Travis Dermott, though, I think that for me, he’s a guy that hasn’t deserved to sit out and have to come out of the lineup, but much like some of the rotations we’ve had in the fourth line here, the only way to get people in is to take people out. We’re actually very encouraged with Dermott’s game. He’s really done everything that we’ve asked of him, and lots of positive things about his game. We shouldn’t be reading anything into him coming out other than the fact that we’re just trying to create opportunity for Mikko to show what he can do.
Q. Mark Masters, TSN: Sheldon, what are the areas of growth and improvement you’ll be looking for from the team coming out of this break?
Sheldon Keefe: I think one of the big things would be for us just to get really comfortable in playing with leads and having a good process in place that can allow us to take care of that lead, but push more on the offensive side of it. And, when I say that, that’s doing it responsibly. Spending more time in the offensive zone in general through games.
I think we need to find ways to control play a little bit better and generate more shots, more opportunities offensively. So that’s part of it. The whole situational awareness piece with playing with a lead and being responsible with the puck, those areas. Then it’s just details all over the ice, continuing to clean those types of things up. Having back-to-back practice days now for the first time since we’ve broke camp would be a good opportunity for us to do that.
Q. Kevin McGran, Toronto Star: Just want your thoughts after 10 games. A four game road trip that was pretty successful overall and where you feel your game is as you go into a three, four day break here.
Frederik Andersen: I feel like it’s been good. I think I feel like I’m moving really efficiently. I think after the first few games I figured out how I’m supposed to play and how I play my best. I think I got back to that more in the last few games. Overall, I think pretty good. I think we’ve got to be pretty happy with where we are at in the standings and we know we can be a whole lot better, so that’s a positive. I think, to touch on this this road trip, was good. I think we’d have liked the last point, of course, but overall pretty successful.
Q. Kevin McGran, Toronto Star: I know you want to stop every puck, but are you going to look at the highlights and see what McDavid is able to do because there’s almost no stopping him sometimes.
Frederik Andersen: Of course I’ll break down the game and do my video and see what I could have done differently. I think we’ve shown a lot of positives shutting him down especially, and containing him as much as possible. Obviously, he’s a great player where if he does create that space and speed for himself I think obviously he showed just how good he is, but I think we’ve showed we can do better and do really well against him. There’s lots of positives.
Q. Mark Masters, TSN: Freddie, what did you see on the on the save on Archibald in the dying seconds of regulation?
Frederik Andersen: Just the 2-on-1 obviously, he passed it over trying to get over and main focus for me is obviously the shot and then try to slide over and take as much as possible of the net. Just happy to make that save and try to see if we can push it to overtime.
Q: Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun: Happy Birthday. I’m guess you wanted the win tonight, but can you talk about the trip as a whole?
Justin Holl: The win was something we were definitely after. We knew we’d have a motivated group coming out tonight. I think that was obviously disappointing to not win, but in the grand scheme of things taking seven out of eight points on the road is never going to be a bad thing for our group. We’ll learn from it and move forward.
Q: Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun: What did you think of the new sweaters?
Justin Holl: I like them. Honestly, I didn’t love them right away. I didn’t know where the grey came from but they’ve really grown on me. I thought we looked really sharp tonight.
Q. Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun: I’m sure you wanted the win tonight to complete the trip but how did you feel about the goal and being part of Mikko Lehtonen’s first NHL point?
Zach Hyman: Yeah, obviously we wanted to win. That was a great road trip. Anytime you go 3-0-1 on the road, it’s a good trip. It sucks that we ended off on an OT loss, but still a great trip for us. And Mikko, he’s really good at walking the line and getting a shot through so we’ve kind of told him before if he has a shot, take it, and he found the lane and Johnny tipped it and then it kind of went to me. So it’s great for him to get his first point and I thought he played great.
Q. Marty Klinkenberg, Globe and Mail: I know that teams kind of usually in their normal season, look at, you know, break it down by 10 games, 20 games, whatever. If you look at the first 10 games, what do you think right now?
Zach Hyman: I think they were all hard fought games. I think that we played in a ton of one-goal games. Two of them were OT, I think. And at the end of the day, we came out with a 7-2-1 record. So pretty great start for us. We like where we’re at. We like our team. We like what we’re building and yet the season’s a condensed season. So 10 games goes by really quick. It was a pretty shortened schedule for us here. We have a little break, but I think we’re in a good spot.
Q. Mark Masters, TSN: When you look at McDavid’s goal in the second, is there any way to defend that or do you just tip your hat to one of the greats?
Zach Hyman: No, I think that we could have defended it better. I think that I was the first guy up and I’ve got to take away speed a little bit and give Hollsy, Muzz and, I think, Mitch a little bit more time kind of wedge him out of the middle. But, you know, once he gets that time and space, he’s a special player, obviously. So he can make moves like that. I think we’ve played him four times now. He’s a great player, and we just got to be aware of him.
Q. Kevin McGran, Toronto Star: How do you sum up this road trip and the start to the season you guys have had?
Auston Matthews: I think it was a pretty positive road trip taking three out of four, playing some good teams. When you’re playing the same team back to back twice in a row, it’s hard to win twice and you see the two in Calgary were solid and it would have been nice to get this one. But I think overall there are some really positive things we’re doing that we can build off and just continue these next couple of games, get a couple of days off here and regroup. It’s kind of been a bit of a shotgun start to the season so it’ll be nice to reenergize, regroup as a team and get right back to it.
Q: Kevin McGran, Toronto Star: How much fun was it playing Connor McDavid two games in a row?
Auston Matthews: I don’t know if I’d describe it as fun but it’s always a challenge. Obviously, himself, Draisaitl are two of the top players in the League so it’s always a challenge going up against that amount of talent and speed coming at you. We’ll take that extra point. It would have been nice getting the second one, but we’ll move on and learn and just continue to move forward
Q: Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun: 7-2-1 to start but you say in 10 games, you guys haven’t played your best hockey yet. Is it encouraging there’s still a lot of room to grow but while you’re growing you’re putting wins like tonight with one point?
Auston Matthews: That’s definitely pretty positive 10 games in. Like you said, there’s a lot of things that we can do better. I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface of the best hockey that we can play collectively as a team. I think that’s always encouraging moving forward as we go on to the season knowing that we can play a lot better but that we’re still getting points, we’re still winning. Freddie made some big saves for us tonight, that last one with not a lot of time left. Those little things that we have to continue to move forward and get better in little areas and continue to win games, of course.