Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs after the game

Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.


On the message to the team after the loss:

It is difficult to find words. I just told them that they have every reason to be proud of the work they’ve done this season that put us in a position to play this game tonight against an opponent like that.

There are many reasons to be proud, and yet many reasons to be devastated and upset. We feel good about the effort we make. I thought they gave us all they had.

We fell short. We are in the winning business. We didn’t get it.

On what was the difference in the game:

When a game is so close, it’s hard to really pin down. They found a way to get that second goal. The two goals they scored were kind of bang-bang plays. The pucks give off a kind of stream, and Paul shoots it into the net.

I thought we had a couple of looks similar to that, especially early in the game, and we didn’t capitalize. We didn’t finish the chance.

Seizing the opportunities would make the difference. Both teams really didn’t give each other much tonight. Offense is hard to come by both ways. You had a feeling it was going to be as tight as this one.

They were able to get the second goal.

On the call that disallowed John Tavares’ goal:

I don’t know. She is not on my mind right now.

On whether this loss feels different than the Columbus and Montreal series:

Yes, it feels different. It hurts a little more, to be honest. There was a lot of disappointment about our failure last season. This one hurts more because this was a really good team that really played hard.

The fact that you’re so close against that team… You can debate the merits of any kind of credit you want to give our team, but I don’t know if you can debate anything about the Tampa Bay Lightning, who they are, what they stand for and what They have achieved.

We are standing there with them. We had chances to finish them off in Game 6. We didn’t. It shows that we came so close to not only winning this series, but who knows what happens from there in terms of our team’s confidence after playing a team of this caliber and finding a way…

This one is tough because I really feel like we’re a lot closer than it seems. Playing against a team of that caliber… We’ll see how the rest of the playoffs go, but obviously, that team has the recipe, and the players have figured it out.

On what the team can borrow from Lightning:

I think there are already things that we have borrowed from them in the last few seasons to build this. The biggest thing I take away from the series… There are the obvious pieces, which are skill, offense and that they are dangerous people. But how they defend as a team, how they prioritize defense, how they commit to blocking, how they don’t give you anything…

They don’t get a lot of credit because you don’t really think of them that way, but we knew going into this series, going into third periods against this team was going to be a challenge. They are the number one team in the NHL when it comes to limiting opportunities against them when they win a goal in the third period. The whole regular season, they were that.

That’s kind of a hallmark of their success. That’s championship hockey. They didn’t give us much in that third period tonight. Those are the things I take with me: how hard they defend and how they prioritize defense.

On the team effort in the game:

I thought our guys pushed too hard. I thought we played with confidence at the beginning. I thought we had chances to move on from the beginning. That first goal would have been very important to the crowd and all the reaction we would have gotten from there. We couldn’t capitalize on the opportunities we had.

Not much was happening. The chances were few and far between both sides for most of the game from there. In terms of our effort and the pace of play in this series, particularly the last few games, it’s incredible hockey. It’s fast hockey. It’s competitive hockey.

Our boys stood up and were there. We came from behind in Games 5 and 6. That shows a lot about the character of our team to do that against a team like the one I’m talking about: They are champions, and the hallmark of their team is how they defend and close. games.

We couldn’t do it a third time. Playing from behind tonight was tough.

On Jason Spezza missing out on a chance to win late in his career:

Spezz gives us everything he has all the time. We’ve talked about how he’s all over here. He’s a guy who doesn’t have the time to side with him in the league. He has given a lot to the game. He continues to work and commit himself every day of his life to win the Stanley Cup and help our team find his way. You sure feel sorry for him.

On the conversation between him and Jon Cooper on the handshake line:

We will leave it. He and I are going to talk again. That’s where we left off. We both recognized that it was a great series. it was very close. We got a lot of respect in that line from his team, which is good to see.

It was a very different tone and respect from the other side than we have experienced before. We’re certainly earning respect in the league, but again, we’re not in the respect game. We are in the winning game. We have to find a way to do that.

On how soon he’ll be back in the office planning for next year:

Kyle and I will talk tomorrow and make a plan. We’ll have exit meetings and stuff with the players. I don’t expect any of that to happen tomorrow, but I would say Monday we’ll do it again. I have already spoken with the coaches. We will be reporting on this series all week. We’ll take it from there.

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