In a previous post, we looked at the moves Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas made after his team’s disappointing loss to the Montreal Canadiens in last season’s postseason. We also noted that both Dubas and Maple Leafs’ President Brendan Shanahan reaffirmed their confidence in the team’s core and worked to improve the team.
Related: Toronto Maple Leafs Playoff Success Rests on Jack Campbell
During the offseason and at this season’s trade deadline, Dubas made a series of changes to the players surrounding the team’s core players. Specifically, we assessed the forwards who are now with the team and compared them to those who left. Our assessment was that this season’s additions at the forward position made up for any losses from players who left.
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In this post, we’re going to look more fully at the goalie situation.
Who’s Out as a Goalie, and Who’s In?
The 32-year old Frederik Andersen has left the team. He was replaced by 30-year-old Petr Mrazek and 25-year-old Erik Kallgren.
When last season started, the Maple Leafs’ #1 goalie was Andersen. Andersen was the best goalie to lace up skates for the Maple Leafs in the salary cap era. By the end of the 2020-21 season, he was sixth in total games played in franchise history with 268 games. He was also fourth in wins with 149, seventh in save percentage with 0.914, and sixth in goals-against average for goaltenders with 200 or more appearances at 2.79.
The Maple Leafs’ backup to start last season was Jack Campbell. The team had acquired Campbell rom the Los Angeles Kings in February 2020, along with Kyle Clifford, for Adam Brooks and two third-round picks. Campbell went on to post a 3-2-1 record with a 0.915 save percentage and a 2.63 goals-against average in six starts over the remainder of that first season.
The 2020-21 Season Saw a Changing of the Guard
The big changed occurred during the 2020-21 regular season. Frederik Andersen went through injury issues and struggled when he did play, winning 13 and losing 11 games, while posting a 0.895 save percentage and a 2.96 goals-against average.
Meanwhile, when Jack Campbell took over for his injured goalie partner, he set a new NHL record by winning his first 11 starts. Campbell finished the regular season with a 17-3-2 record, a 0.921 save percentage, and a 2.15 goals-against average. When the playoffs started, the net was Campbell’s with Andersen as the backup.
Campbell’s overall play in the postseason was pretty good. He finished the playoffs with a 0.934 save percentage and a 1.81 goals-against average. If we break things down and look at his games a little closer we see that, in the first four games, Campbell had an amazing 0.965 save percentage and a goals-against-average of only 1.01 per game.
After building a 3-1 series lead, the Maple Leafs had three chances to eliminate the Canadiens. Campbell’s save percentage in those games was 0.892% and his goals-against average was 2.79. The Maple Leafs lost all three games.
Andersen Left During the Offseason, Mrazek Was Signed
This season Andersen is gone. He was replaced by Petr Mrazek, who’s had injury issues and struggled when he did play. In 20 games, Mrazek did post a 12-6-0 record; however, his goals-against average was an abysmal 3.33 with a save percentage of 0.888. He suffered his latest injury on March 29 and only this week (on Wednesday) was taken off injured reserve.
It is a big question as to whether he would be ready for the playoffs. Although he’s been taken of injured reserve, there’s probably little chance he’ll play during the postseason unless something goes really awry.
Related: Maple Leafs Aren’t Ready to Contend for the Stanley Cup
With the injury problems Mrazek has had, the Maple Leafs were forced to call up 25-year-old rookie Erik Kallgren. In 14 games Kallgren has an 8-4-1 record; but, like Mrazek, his save percentage has been 0.888 and his goals-against average was 3.31.
Jack Campbell Is The Maple Leafs’ Goalie
That brings us back to Campbell. Like last year’s playoffs, Campbell’s had a Jekyll-and-Hyde season. In the first half of the season, Campbell had a 15-5-3 record, a 0.937 save percentage, and a 1.94 goals-against average. In the last half of the season, Campbell still has a decent 16-4-2 record, but his save percentage has dipped to 0.893 and his goals-against average has risen to 3.27.
Over his last four starts, Campbell seems to be back to where he was in the first half of the season. He’s 3-0-1 in those starts with a 0.943 save percentage and a 1.73 goals-against average. He shut out Detroit Red Wings in his last regular-season start. He then proceeded to shut out the Tampa Bay Lightning during Game 1 of the playoffs. However, the Lightning came back to outscore the Maple Leafs 5-3 in Game 2.
Where the Goaltending Currently Stands
The fate of the Maple Leafs’ playoff hopes rests on Campbell’s shoulders. If he succeeds, the team will succeed. If he fails, the team will fail with him. To expect Kallgren, Mrazek, or anyone else in the Maple Leafs’ organization to step in if Campbell gets hurt, or just plays badly, is an unreasonable expectation.
Related: Maple Leafs’ Jack Campbell Is a Teammate You Want on the Roster
Last season the Maple Leafs had Campbell or Andersen to choose from. This season they have Campbell, then virtually no one. Our assessment is that the Maple Leafs have taken a step backward in goal.
Our Overall Conclusion for the Postseason
We feel the Maple Leafs have made definite improvements this season to both their forward group and their defense (which we will review in an upcoming post). Yet their playoff success is dependent on one player. That player is Jack Campbell.
If goaltending is the foundation to team success in the playoffs, the Maple Leafs have built themselves a very strong house only to put it on a shaky foundation. That’s the bad news.
The good news is the team doesn’t need Campbell to be the NHL All-Star he was in the first half of this season. We’ve said this a number of times lately, but we’ll note it once more. All the team needs from Campbell is that he’s a competent NHL goalie who stops the shots he should stop.
This edition of the Toronto has the defensive prowess to limit most high-danger scoring chances. It also has the offensive prowess that would allow them to overcome defensive lapses that might happen.
Related: Maple Leafs: Campbell’s Journey From ‘Lost Soul’ to Franchise Records
Our conclusion is that this is a much better team overall than it was last season. That said, the team’s Achilles heel could be its goaltending.
[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]
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