It was a game vastly different from November 8th when the Los Angeles Kings came to town and took it to the Toronto Maple Leafs by a 5-1 score. Last night, the Maple Leafs exited a tight first period with a 1-0 lead thanks to an Alex Kerfoot goal. After Auston Matthews took what looked like a questionable penalty at the tail end of the first period – when does Matthews ever take a penalty – and the Kings scored on the ensuing second-period power-play, it was all Maple Leafs.
The game turned into the kind of offensive display that hasn’t happened for the Maple Leafs this season. The end result was an easier-than-usual night for goalie Jack Campbell and the Kings going down to a 6-2 defeat. The Maple Leafs poured in four goals during the second period to win the game going away. Only two things didn’t go right for the Blue and White: first, David Kampf was injured; and, second, Nick Ritchie didn’t score.
That Ritchie didn’t score wasn’t because his teammates weren’t trying their best to make it happen. I know there’s a lot of criticism of Ritchie’s contribution to the team this season; and, I’m not saying that much of it isn’t deserved. He’s not providing what’s been expected offensively. However, when you saw the acrobatics his teammates were doing to try to get him off the schneid, you have to know that Ritchie’s respected and liked in the locker room.
In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I take a look at some of the events of the game and comment on the implications of what’s happening for the team going forward.
Item One: Jack Campbell Got Back into the Winning Column
Given Joseph Woll’s success during the second start of his career when he threw a shutout against the New York Islanders and Jack Campbell’s so-far stellar season thus far, it’s easy to forget that Campbell’s game prior to suiting up against his old Kings’ team was a 2-0 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Campbell entered Wednesday’s game with a 10-4-1 record, a goals-against-average of 1.66, and a save percentage of .944 in the 16 games he’d played.
Campbell improved his record but not his statistics when he stopped “only” 30 of the 32 shots he faced. He’s been so good in the net that giving up two goals caused his goals-against-average to sneak up to 1.68 and save percentage to slide to .943. That’s amazing when you think of it.
The 29-year-old Campbell has now won five of his last six games and jumped his record to 11-4-1. He’s now tied once again with Frederik Andersen for the NHL lead with 11 games won in goal.
Can Campbell continue his pace? Are these statistics just too good to last? Perhaps, but it seems the jury is no longer out on the question of whether Campbell is one of the top goalies in the NHL. He is.
Item Two: John Tavares Has a Two-Point Night
Maple Leafs’ captain John Tavares put up two points in the prolific Maple Leafs’ second period when he scored a goal and added an assist on Auston Matthews’ goal. Again it was his great hand-eye coordination that allowed Tavares to deflect a point shot from the seldom-scoring T.J. Brodie (who doubled his season’s point total with two assists) to give his team a 3-1 cushion early in the second period.
Not long after, Tavares set up Matthews’ goal from close range. With his goal, the 31-year-old captain ended a drought of four games without a goal. He now has scored nine goals and added nine assists (for 18 points) in 20 games on the season.
Item Three: David Kampf Was Injured Only 10 Seconds into the Game
The Maple Leafs’ David Kampf was injured on a hit early in the first period and only played 10 seconds of Wednesday’s game. Maple Leafs’ fans have to hope that the term “precautionary” means that the injury isn’t serious and that Kampf will return to the lineup shortly. The team would miss him. At the point of this post’s publication, there’s no further news about Kampf to report.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
The Maple Leafs will play the third game of their road trip on Friday against the San Jose Sharks. That makes me wonder about what Patrick Marleau is doing these days and whether he’ll have a quick reunion with his two adopted “sons” from the Maple Leafs – Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
Perhaps it’s my quickly-advancing age, but I have quite appreciated the way the Maple Leafs have engaged veteran leadership for its young players. I count Marleau as one of the almost unsung architects of the team the organization ices today. Last year, Joe Thornton was another veteran leader who make a contribution in ways other than on the scoresheet.
As well, Jason Spezza – who scored against the Kings last night – is currently both playing with and informally leading this team. I’m also certain Wayne Simmonds plays a role in the locker room as well.
Building a successful NHL team can be a complex process.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf