"We need those guys to be better": Keefe unhappy with Leafs defensive duo

Apr 28 2023, 2:00 pm

Like many Toronto Maple Leafs fans who tuned in to Game 5 of the series on Thursday, head coach Sheldon Keefe was not satisfied with the efforts of defensive duo Justin Holl and Mark Giordano in the 4-2 loss.

The pair were both -3 on the night after being out there during every goal the Tampa Bay Lightning scored. Unfortunately for Holl, who has been on the ice for 73% of the Lightning’s goals in the series, that’s been the story of this postseason.

When asked about his string of poor performances, Keefe was quick to shift the blame on the pairing rather than the player himself.

“My first response would be whether he has been on the ice by himself in those situations. I think the answer is he is not out there by himself in those situations when he is getting scored on,” said the coach after Game 5.

Keefe was not shy, admitting that he expected more from Holl and Giordano.

“We need those guys [Holl and Giordano] to be better. They were involved in the goals here tonight. That is really all I would say,” Keefe explained. “At the same time, they have also done a good job for us at different times in this series.”

Despite scoring first in front of their home crowd, Keefe said the Leafs lost momentum early in the game.

“It is a tight hockey game. We score first in the game, and then they come right back. That was tough,” he told reporters. “You have a chance to build some momentum, and you give that goal up.”

As for how Toronto can close this thing out and break their 19-year-long curse of not making it past the first round, the coach says the key lies in setting the pace of the game early.

“In terms of the territorial advantage, one team has to get on top of the other. They have been able to get on top of us pretty consistently,” Keefe explained. “We have to find our way through that.”

The Maple Leafs will try again to break through to the second round of the playoffs when the series moves back to Tampa for Game 6 on Saturday.

Al SciolaAl Sciola

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