Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Bishop, Campbell, Mrazek, Nylander, Spezza

As the Toronto Maple Leafs prepare for their third game of the season and second in a row to the Ottawa Senators, I’ll share some of the news and rumors from the team. I’ll also comment upon some of the things we’ve learned as fans about this team.

Item One: Maple Leafs Sign Alex Bishop to Back Up Campbell

Earlier this morning, Sportsnet’s Luke Fox reported that the Maple Leafs had signed a University of Toronto student athlete – goalie Alex Bishop – to back up starting goalie Jack Campbell for tonight’s game. The reason? Salary-cap issues. 

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With Petr Mrazek being injured, the Maple Leafs are so tight against the upper limits of the salary cap that they can’t call up Michael Hutchinson. According to Fox, the salary cap rules note that a team must play short for a position for one game before getting the needed salary-cap relief to make a recall. In this case, Bishop signed a one-day amateur tryout to back up Campbell. 

Item Two: Jack Campbell Has Been Stellar in Goal

Speaking of Campbell, he’s had a great start to the 2021-22 season. Thus far, he’s already stopped 31-of-32 shot attempts in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Then, when he was relieving his goalie partner Mrazek, he stopped a perfect 10 for 10 of the Senators’ shots on net. 

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Maple Leafs starter has picked up where he left off last season, when he had a 17-3-2 record and a .921 save percentage. This season, thus far, Campbell has an even-better 0.76 goals-against-average and a .976 save percentage. 

Item Three: Petr Mrazek Will Miss Time with a Groin Injury

It’s simply hard to blame the team’s 3-0 goal deficit during the first period of the Senators game. Mrazek didn’t play that poorly, and he especially played well during the second period to help keep his team in the game. The Senators’ goals were flukey, as hockey goals can often be. The first one was scored on a rebound that could have been challenged (perhaps successfully) for being kicked in. The second bounced off former Maple Leafs’ and now Senators’ player Tyler Ennis’ knee. And, the third goal bounced off Maple Leafs’ defenseman Justin Holl.

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Now, sadly, Mrazek is out of action for who knows how long with a groin injury when he fell awkwardly on the Senators’ last shot of the second period. Obviously, Campbell will start tonight’s game against the Senators. (from “Campbell ready to take the puck and run with it for Maple Leafs, Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun, 15/10/21).

Item Four: William Nylander Is on a Tear to Start the Season

William Nylander scored a goal in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the Canadiens. Then, he added a goal and an assist in Thursday’s loss to the Senators. Although Nylander lost a few days to vaccination issues during the training camp, he’s absolutely on top of his game during the first two games of the regular season. 

William Nylander Toronto Maple Leafs
William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

During the 2020-21 season, Nylander scored 42 points in 51 games, and if he continues to play like this is there a chance he could score 100 points? His head coach Sheldon Keefe isn’t shy about giving him increased ice time this season. Against Ottawa on Thursday he played 22:28 minutes. 

Related: 3 Takeaways From Maple Leafs’ 3-2 Loss to Senators

Along with the never-aging Jason Spezza, Nylander helped the Maple Leafs get back into the game after being down 3-0 after the first period. He totalled six shots on goal during the game. By the way, Mitch Marner and Michael Bunting also had six shots on goal during the game. 

Item Four: Jason Spezza Just Isn’t Aging, Is He?

Like Nylander, Jason Spezza also scored a goal and an added assist in the loss to the Senators. He didn’t score against the Canadiens but he breathed life into his struggling team by scoring a power-play goal early in the third period. Then, five minutes later, he threaded a beautiful seeing-eye pass through two teams to assist on Nylander’s power-play goal.

Spezza has begun this season on the Maple Leafs’ first power-play unit with star center Auston Matthews out with his wrist injury. Given Spezza’s high level of play, he’ll likely continue to play there until Matthews returns.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs go right back at the Senators tonight. Although coach Keefe couldn’t have been pleased with his team’s loss, he wasn’t as disappointed with his team’s start against the Senators as he was with its poor start against the Canadiens the night earlier.

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As Keefe noted after the game, the Senators “were outshooting us early on, but they had nothing dangerous. We gifted them a goal … and then we gave them another gift at the end of the period. I don’t put this (game performance) in the same category.”

I’m looking for the Maple Leafs to have a better start tonight against these same Senators. The team has a goalie to protect.