After taking the loss in game two of the 2021-22 season, the Toronto Maple Leafs came out victorious in their second game against the Ottawa Senators, winning their third game of the season 3-1. Although there were some hiccups, the Maple Leafs had a much better showing than their first two games, and improved to 2-1-0 on the season as a result.
I had the pleasure of taking this game in with my own eyes, and man, did it ever feel good to be sitting in an actual hockey arena, with fans, for the first time in two years. From goaltending, to depth, to young players stepping into bigger roles, here are three takeaways fresh from my view in the 300 level of the Maple Leafs’ win over the Senators.
Maple Leafs’ Campbell Stands Tall in Wake of Mrazek’s Injury
When the Maple Leafs signed Petr Mrazek to a three-year contract back in July, there was reason to believe that this tandem had lots of potential. With that potential, however, came some concern on the durability front. And when Mrazek went down with a groin injury only 40 minutes into his tenure as a Maple Leaf, it was evident that Campbell was going to be tested with a starting goalie workload early on.
And in his first start since Wednesday’s season opener, Campbell did exactly what his team needed him to and kept them in the game. He stopped 20 of 21 shots, and while that isn’t exactly the busiest night for a goalie, he made some key saves and didn’t have much of a chance on the one goal he did allow.
With the Maple Leafs unable to recall Michael Hutchinson due to cap issues, the team dressed University of Toronto netminder Alex Bishop as the emergency backup, so they needed a good start from Campbell. And he delivered.
Maple Leafs’ Sandin Looks Like an NHL Defenseman
The departure of Zach Bogosian in free agency essentially cemented Rasmus Sandin’s role on the bottom pairing this season. And while three games is a small sample size, he looks like he belongs in the NHL. He now has two assists in three games to start the season, including a really nice feed to set up Wayne Simmonds for the first goal of the game.
What strikes me about Sandin’s game more than anything else is just how mature he is for his age. His defensive game as a whole needs some work, but when that’s your most glaring issue at 21 years old, you’re in a good position. He’s incredibly patient with the puck and can even throw a big hit every now and then, which is encouraging for a defenseman of his size. With the question of where Morgan Rielly will end up beyond this season sure to rear its ugly head and make headlines all season long, Sandin’s emergence should help ease the blow should Rielly leave after this season.
Maple Leafs’ Depth Steps Up, Stars Stay Quiet
It’s always reassuring when your depth players show up and chip in offense, and tonight, that was the case. After the aforementioned Simmonds opened the scoring, Alex Kerfoot notched his first goal of the season and Michael Bunting would follow suit and score his first as well. The latter two players each recorded two points tonight. Bunting, specifically, had a great game in my eyes. Even when you look past the scoresheet, he was buzzing all over the ice and taking hits to make plays.
Meanwhile, two of the Leafs’ top-end stars in Mitch Marner and John Tavares were held off of the scoresheet. While it’s obviously far too early to raise any concerns about these two, neither of them have been difference makers in any of the three games they played. To be fair to Tavares, he got robbed on a wicked glove save from Senators’ goaltender Anton Forsberg, and Marner saw his fair share of chances tonight as well. Still, you hope that this is just a slow start for these two players and that there’s no cause for concern down the line.
Maple Leafs Will Face New York Rangers on Monday
For the first time since March 2020, the Maple Leafs host the New York Rangers at home. Dating back to Game 1 of the 2021 playoffs, the Maple Leafs have only played the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators since. And even before that, it was always the same six teams in a rotation.
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I’m excited to watch them play an American team for the first time since the 2020 bubble, and I’d have to imagine the team is too.
Alex Hobson is a third year broadcasting student at Niagara College. He has been writing about sports since 2005 and has been with The Hockey Writers since October of 2020. He covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, World Juniors, and the NHL Entry Draft, and is also part of the Sticks in the 6ix Podcast, presented by THW. He also makes weekly appearances on THW’s Maple Leafs Lounge Roundtable. For interview requests or any other inquiries, you can follow Alex’s social media pages listed at the bottom of his articles like this one.