Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Campbell, Hutchinson & Power Play Woes

How different life is for backup goalies under current Toronto Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe than it was under former head coach Mike Babcock. When Michael Hutchison played for Babcock as his head coach, he always started the second game of a back-to-back with Fredrik Andersson starting the first. During previous seasons, the second game was arguably the most difficult game to start in any series because usually the team had just come off a travel day and was facing a more-rested opponent.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Scott, Andersen, Marleau & Coming Trade?

This season differs a bit because usually both teams are taking part in a mini-series against each other, which will be the case tonight and on Monday night in Calgary. Today’s game against the Calgary Flames is the first game of a back-to-back mini-series where the same teams face each other.

Item One: Michael Hutchinson: Today’s Starting Goalie

In tonight’s game Hutchinson, who’s the current backup goalie with Frederik Andersen nursing an injury, will start and current starter Jack Campbell will play tomorrow night in Calgary. During his last game action against the Edmonton Oilers, Hutchinson seemed shaky at the start of the game but pulled it together to help take the team into overtime where the Oilers scored to win the game.

In total, Hutchinson gave up three goals on 23 shots in that 3-2 overtime loss. Tonight, he’ll face a determined Flames team that’s looking to bounce back from a tough stretch that’s seen them lose six of their past seven. On the season, Hutchinson carries a 3-2-1 record, a goals-against-average of 2.49, and a save percentage of .914 in the seven games he played.

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Michael Hutchinson
Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Michael Hutchinson (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

For those concerned with Campbell’s injury situation, as Mark Masters’ tweet notes, although Campbell missed Saturday’s practice it’s due to load management and not his injury. I have to admit that I was skeptical prior to the last Winnipeg Jet’s game, but then Campbell played so well that I am just accepting what I’m told about the situation.

Item Two: Jack Campbell: Monday’s Starting Goalie

As noted, Jack Campbell didn’t practice Saturday because the Maple Leafs’ coaching staff is continuing to manage his workload. So far, it’s obviously working. However, it’s interesting to watch the organization’s knowledge that the team is part of a huge community that includes concerned fans because the situation obviously moved coach Keefe to reassure Maple Leafs’ nation that nothing more should be written into the Campbell situation other than that it’s a chance to give their starter some extra rest.

Related: Tkachuk Shows His Ignorance Discussing Maple Leafs’ Campbell Injury

The word is that the 29-year-old Campbell will be ready for Monday’s game. If things continue as they have been, that bodes well for the team. Campbell’s been nothing short of sensational. He’s recorded a amazing goals-against average of 1.35 and perhaps an even more amazing save percentage of .951 save percentage to go along with his 8-0-0 record on the season. About the only thing we’ve seen him struggle with was handling the puck behind the net, which led to a couple of goals against a young Ottawa Senators’ team about a week ago.

In Campbell’s last game, which was a 2-1 shootout win over the Winnipeg Jets, he made 31 saves and was the main reason (along with Jason Spezza who had an assist on Travis Dermott’s goal and scored the only goal in the shootout) why the team took two points from the Jets in the game.

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

Campbell simply made highlight-reel save after highlight-reel save, standing on his head all game long. He had to be that good. The Jets forward group is one of the best in the entire NHL and they were a tough test for the team on Friday. But the Maple Leafs survived and are prospering with Campbell in net.

Campbell is not only the de-facto starter, but he’s been a magical elixir for the team recently. The Maple Leafs have gained points in six straight games and have a 5-0-1 record during that time. By the way, Campbell started five of those six games, all of which the team won.

Item Three: A Thank You to Readers Who Comment on My Posts

I encourage Maple Leafs’ fans to watch the more recent segment of The Maple Leafs Lounge that was taped yesterday prior to the Flames game today.

If you do watch, I spend a minute on the podcast thanking those who write in comments on my posts. I have a group of great readers, and I want you to know that I appreciate your comments and your gentle corrections. I admit that I’ve only been writing about hockey and the Maple Leafs for about two and a half years now, and I have much to learn. Thanks for helping to teach me.

Related: Top 3 All-Time Flyers Goalies

Often as readers your comments send me down bunny trails where I learn more and give me ideas about how the team is – or could be – playing. One of The Hockey Writers regular readers and commenters offered a suggestion about the team’s power-play unit, which hasn’t scored now for quite a while. I thought I would share his idea – thanks Stan for this.

Item Four: Considering the Maple Leafs Power Play

Stan noted that, one thing he would like to see coach Keefe try – that might be a “little old school, out of the box thinking” – was to keep the top two lines intact, and let them split the power-play time. The units would look like this:

Zach Hyman/Auston Matthews/Mitch Marner

Morgan Rielly/T.J. Brodie

Alex Galchenyuk/John Tavares/William Nylander

Jake Muzzin/Justin Holl

Stan’s reasoning is that both top two lines have shown they can dominate playing five-on-five hockey and all four defensemen have some offensive capabilities. [In fact, for the sheer purposes of throwing the puck on net, Jake Muzzin is probably the Maple Leafs’ best defenseman.]

Jake Muzzin Toronto Maple Leafs
Jake Muzzin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Stan’s thinking is that keeping the top two forward lines basically intact on the power-play unit would help strengthen the continuity of the two lines and wouldn’t disrupt the lines’ five-on-five play.

By contrast, loading up power-play lines changing things by asking each player to do something different from what they’d usually do when playing five-on-five hockey. Stan notes that keeping the top-two forward lines together could simplify what each line has to do, shift in and shift out.

Related: The 1979 NHL – WHA Merger

Thanks for the idea – let’s hope tonight is the night the power play scores at least one goal.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Auston Matthews is on a roll and has scored six points in his last four games after emerging from his wrist injury. He’s now totalled 24 goals and 17 assists (for 41 points) in 33 games this season. I’m looking for him to have a strong game against the Flames today.