It’s been quite the season for Toronto Maple Leafs netminder Jack Campbell, one that’s been filled with ups, downs and everything in between. “Soup” to his teammates and beloved fans, has endured a legitimate roller coaster of emotions throughout the 2021-22 campaign. From being named an All-Star to losing his game mid-season to having a timely rib injury help hit the reset button, Campbell has been through it all. The good news? He’s once again found his game at the absolute perfect time. If he continues playing like fans have seen in Game 1 and 3 of Toronto’s first-round series with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Maple Leafs have a legitimate shot at winning the Stanley Cup.
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Let’s not put the carriage before the horse, I know, there’s still lots of hockey to be played against the Lightning, but it’s time to give Campbell his due. Game 3 was one of his best games from start to finish as he made some 10-bell saves to either keep his hockey team tied or ahead during the massive game in Tampa Bay. While his first stop of the night was impressive as the Lightning received a point-blank chance in the early stages of the hockey game, there were none better than this absolute robbery on Lightning captain Steven Stamkos late in the third period.
Campbell stopped 32 of 34 shots in Game 3, a game where it looked like he was having fun from the moment the puck dropped. It’s no secret he’s one of the nicest guys in the entire NHL and his teammates love to see him having fun and chatting on the ice mid-game. It’s a way for him to stay engaged in the game and calm his teammates down when tensions are starting to get uncomfortably high. Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews is never shy to share his feelings towards his goalie and had this to say after the Game 3 victory:
Matthews wasn’t the only one singing Campbell’s praise after the game as the entire team was showing love for their goaltender. Seeing him go toe-to-toe with arguably the best netminder in the league is a wonderful sign for the Maple Leafs. Toronto’s goaltender holds an impressive .931 save percentage in 10 career postseason starts, including two shutouts.
Campbell’s Play Helped Maple Leafs Finish the Job
We’ve seen it year after year, the Maple Leafs love to get up in Stanley Cup Playoff games, just to give it right back when it matters most. From a couple times to the Boston Bruins, and to more recently to the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto loves to gives things up on a silver platter in the late stages of the game. After Campbell made the miraculous save on Stamkos during Game 3, there was almost a sense of relief that the team was going to be able to finally finish a job. Two empty netters later and the Maple Leafs now look to take a 3-1 series lead on Sunday night.
If the Maple Leafs are going to advance out of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in almost 20 years, it’s not going to be because Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds are throwing the Lightning off their game. It will be because the team received some stellar goaltending and were able to lock down defensively when the game was on the line. Between Campbell’s play and the likes of David Kampf, Pierre Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev showcasing their two-way talent, the opening three games have shown Toronto has the tools to go to work.
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Head coach Sheldon Keefe deserves some credit for his in-game management with his lines and calling a time out to settle down his hockey club in the third period. However, don’t expect the Leafs coach to soak any of the praise, he’s pointing the finger at his goalie and the group of players in front of him. One thing not on his side… a wheelie chair.
End of the day, folks, it’s pretty simple, if the Maple Leafs continue to receive elite goaltending they have what it takes to beat the Lightning and make some noise in these Stanley Cup Playoffs. It felt like the Game 3 win was a massive step for the franchise and Campbell’s performance was the main reason. If the Soup’s on, the rest of the NHL is in big trouble.