Two games into the Sheldon Keefe era, the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking like a team with a new lease on the season.
Defenceman Justin Holl, who played for Keefe during his time with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, spoke highly of his new (again) coach during an appearance on Hockey Central on Monday.
“He’s got good relationships with a lot of guys on the team considering we have so many former Marlies,” Holl said. “I think he’s doing a great job so far.”
Compare the Mike Babcock-led Maple Leafs that lost to the Vegas Golden Knights last Tuesday to the Keefe-led club that defeated the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday and you can see a number of differences already.
Holl said the coaching change has felt like “a surprisingly seamless transition” and pointed to the overall structure and patience when making plays as two of the biggest changes so far as the club continues to adjust its game under a new bench boss.
This past Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche, fans got a glimpse of just how explosive the club can be. Down 1-0 early in the first period, the Maple Leafs responded with four of their own in that same frame on their way to a 5-3 win.
“That was an issue earlier in the year for us, was getting down early and then we just couldn’t seem to find the offence to get back,” said Holl, when asked about that four-goal first period and what it meant for the club. “So I think for us, that was kind of cathartic in some ways, where we’re like, ‘we are an explosive team.’ We do have that kind of talent and if we can find ways to unleash it, we’re going to be dangerous.”
The win provided a much-need two points, and a crucial confidence boost.
“I think everyone’s feeling pretty good about ourselves,” said Holl. “Obviously it’s only been two games — and even in the Colorado game, we weren’t great, we hung on to win that one — but still I think the mood is positive and guys are starting to see how good we can really be.”