(Toronto) Sheldon Keefe’s tone when he addressed the media on Friday was much different than he had less than 24 hours earlier.
The Toronto Maple Leafs head coach gave a blank stare and had little to say in a very brief post-game press conference following a 3-2 loss to the hands of the Florida Panthers on Thursday night in Game 2 of their second-round series.
With the Maple Leafs trailing 0-2 and traveling to Florida for the next two games, Keefe said his team has no lack of confidence to come back. The two teams will meet on Sunday, in the third game of the series.
“We have the opportunity to go on the road, where we are comfortable and where we are confident because of the results obtained in the last series. That said, it doesn’t make things any easier. »
The Torontonians lost the first game 4-2. They allowed two goals after tying the game 2-2. In the second game, they took an early 2-0 lead and were leading by one goal in the second period when the Panthers scored twice within 47 seconds.
The Maple Leafs are 1-4 at home since the start of the playoffs compared to 3-0 on the road.
“I wish I had an answer on that. I think if we had one, we would be in a better position, forward Ryan O’Reilly said of the Maple Leafs’ performance at home. We are all disappointed, of course. To be behind 2-0 is not what we wanted.
“It’s a long streak and there’s still a lot of hockey to play. We have to keep building our game and getting better the further we go in the series. I’m not worried. »
Keefe believes those battles helped shape the team’s hardened approach to adversity.
“Our group has been resilient. We saw that toughness you refer to in the last series, Keefe said. When we are behind in games, the guys stay focused and they find a way to score. »
The Panthers found their rhythm through the efforts of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and a solid forecheck. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner returned to his starting job in Game 4 of the first-round series against the Boston Bruins, after losing it late in the season.
After a loss in Game 4, Bobrovsky guided the Panthers to five straight wins.
“We could always do more, that’s for sure,” Keefe noted. Let it be shooting through traffic so you can make his life more difficult. We’ve had several good shooting lines, where it’s just shooter versus keeper. Much more than in the previous series. So we have to find ways to convert them. »
As for the Panthers’ forecheck, Keefe admitted it caused the Maple Leafs problems, especially in Game 2.
The Panthers have won five of their six road playoff games and are 1-2 at home.
While ready to feel the energy of his home crowd, head coach Paul Maurice said the feeling within the team was not “rich and royal”.
“At no time in the last nine games have we felt like we’ve dominated the game. We’ve played our style and we should win,” Maurice said via videoconference. Even with the win, we didn’t leave the arena last night feeling like we put them in their place. We worked hard. »
The Maple Leafs will need to do the same to keep their playoff run alive.