“It’s not a good game for us, but it’s a good result” – .

“I like a lot of things about our game today, but I don’t leave the ice feeling like we dominated or something like that” – .

Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs postgame

Sheldon Keefe spoke to the media after his team’s 5-4 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, which brought the Leafs’ record to 18-7-2 this season.

On the team’s performance:

We’ve found ways to hit offensively, whether it’s on the power play or on quick chances in the rush, but as far as the way we like to play and the way we played, I don’t think it was. there was a lot to like about the game tonight in one of the periods. I’m pretty happy, frankly, that the third period is catching up with us because it probably should have.

It’s not a good game for us, but it’s a good result, obviously. We’re coming back to the good side. It’s also a fun game for our guys to play considering we’ve had such great leads at different times. It’s all part of it.

What that tells me, honestly: we are a tired bunch that need time. Coming back from California and ending up in Minnesota and Winnipeg, coming back late at four in the morning the next day… I feel like our team still needs to regroup. We’re going to take a day off to do it tomorrow.

On Nick Ritchie scoring his first of the season:

To like. It has been a long time coming. I told her on the bench that I can’t take much credit because I’ve been calling her for quite a while now that tonight was going to be night, but I felt pretty strongly that today was going to be the day for him.

He plays very well here. Tonight, he has collected four points in his last five games. You could just see it coming. He had some very good chances. I’m thrilled for him, and the team is thrilled for him too.

When he started scoring Ritchie’s first goal every night:

It’s been a long time. I started. I stopped. It was his birthday the other day, and we called him that day. In the coaches room before the game… I thought it was going to be on the power play, though. I’m glad it turned out like this. It’s a good goal for him and a good goal for the team.

On Jason Spezza’s six-game suspension despite his solid reputation in the league:

Everyone in this room and everyone in the game know the character and integrity of Jason Spezza and have played throughout his career. We support it and will always support it. Obviously, he is going to weigh the options he has in this process.

From our point of view, I think it is important that we insist here. I think that’s all we can do. This is what we did tonight. I loved that we got out and played and got our win without him. This is what we must continue to do; not to apologize or point fingers.

We will continue to move forward and Jason will follow his process.

On Alex Steeves and Kristians Rubins’ play in their NHL debut:

I thought these guys gave us good shifts. I liked their game. I will have to review some details. As for the confidence they both showed with the puck, I liked that.

Especially for the first game, it’s a strange situation. Guess you can watch it anyway – maybe you have less time to think about it, or something – but there hasn’t been any practice, even with the squad. In Steeves’ case, in particular, he wasn’t on our side and didn’t know any of our guys. The guys don’t know him. It was just dropped off here.

I was thinking [Steeves] played with confidence and his game improved throughout. He has good details in his game. He’s a smart guy. He plays with a good conscience on the ice. I thought it was a good match for these two guys.

Not much astonishes me anymore. I don’t think it should surprise anyone of what he is capable of. That’s the caliber of player he is.

Obviously, the first base is some pretty high-end play from Bunting to get him that puck. It was great to see. He’s working to get to that place to score and be there for that goal, and then he scores one on the wing.

It’s the kind of pucks that haven’t been taken for him this season, so it was great to see that. When pieces like this start to fall in love with him, it’s obviously great. He’s building a big momentum here.

On Wayne Simmonds’ cut on the Matthews line:

I don’t know if I ended up juggling this. I was happy with the way it was going. Obviously we built the lead very early on so there was a lot more reason to continue handling the bench like I was – sort of for the guys to keep rolling. I didn’t necessarily feel the need to change it.

Simmer worked hard. He played good hockey for us. It was a good opportunity tonight with the way the game went to allow him to get more consistent reps and get more time. I thought he had done a good job.

To find out if Steeves and Rubins will stay on the squad:

We’re going to take a day off tomorrow and regroup. A lot has happened here between the injuries and the suspensions. We’ll take our time and see where the list is and where the injured guys are. Obviously some are going to be long term, but Dermott is making great strides here. We will have to see where it is.

I know some of our guys are going to skate tomorrow – nobody played tonight, but some of the guys like Dermott are going to skate. We’ll have to see where we are and where the list is.

I kinda lost track of that, to be honest. They just let me know who’s eligible tonight and we’ve got the lineup in place. We will regroup, obviously. We have a very good team coming here on Thursday that we have to prepare for.

On Bunting’s contributions to the Matthews line:

He was awesome. He gains more and more confidence in himself and in his role-playing game with Auston. The line hasn’t had Mitch here in a few games. For him, playing like he did will help him gain self-confidence all the more.

Himself – take the chemistry with Auston and play that line on the outside – just play some good hockey. He plays with a lot of urgency and a lot of competitiveness. He continues to find ways to generate offense and earn points. You feel good about your game.


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