What a great win for the Blue and White. The Toronto Maple Leafs went into Florida and beat the reigning Stanley Cup champs Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 6-2.
Many things were noteworthy about the win, but two things were very special. First, Auston Matthews tied the Maple Leafs 40-year record for all-time franchise goals-in-a-single-season with a hat trick that moved his 51 goals to 54 goals. Second, Jack Campbell played a whopper of a game and held off an early charge to beat the Lightning in their own building.
In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at these two noteworthy accomplishments as well as share other news emerging from the team.
Item One: Jack Is Back: Campbell Plays a Great Game
Jack Campbell faced 34 Lightning shots; he stopped 32 of them. It didn’t hurt that his team scored six goals, either. In fact, over the past five games – all wins – the Maple Leafs have put on an offensive show. They have scored five goals (against the Florida Panthers), six goals (against the Boston Bruins), seven goals (against the Winnipeg Jets), six goals (against the Philadelphia Flyers), and six goals (last night against the Lightning).
Six goals will usually get a goalie a win, but that doesn’t mean Campbell didn’t work for his victory. He made a number of important saves during the first period while the game was close or tied. The 30-year-old Campbell has now won back-to-back games.
That’s the Maple Leafs’ goalie who started the season. Since returning to the active lineup from his rib injury, Campbell has been different – and better. He now has compiled a record of 26-9-4 that includes a goals-against-average of 2.64 and a save percentage of .914.
Item Two: Auston Matthews Decided Not to Sneak Up on the Team Record
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Last night, Matthews scored three goals and added an assist against the Stanley Cup champions. His team won 6-2 and passed its first big test of this road trip. How hot (or determined) has Matthews been? He’s scored goals in six straight games and scored at least one goal in 12 of his last 13 games.
Several things make Matthews unstoppable as a sniper. However, one is that he has incredible chemistry and shares on-ice smarts with his line-mate Mitch Marner. During the Flyers game on Saturday, Marner wrapped around the goalie to hit Matthews for an open goal. Last night, the duo repeated that exact same play, with Matthews getting the assist and Marner potting the goal.
As it stands right now, the 24-year-old Matthews has scored 54 goals and added 38 assists (for 92 points) in 64 games on the season. He’s not only decided he’s going to hit the 60-goal mark but the 100-point mark, too.
Item Three: Kyle Clifford Suited Up and Jason Spezza Rested
With William Nylander out with an illness, Kyle Clifford was recalled from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and played last night. Clifford skated in a bottom-six role and, interestingly enough, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe used him as a penalty-killer late in the game when the score was out of reach for the Lightning.
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The 31-year-old Clifford might become a great asset during the postseason, and likely coach Keefe was testing out all his possibilities as he had the chance with a big lead.
Jason Spezza didn’t play last night. That makes two games in a row that Spezza’s been a healthy scratch.
Item Four: William Nylander Didn’t Play Last Night, But Might Tonight
William Nylander was a game-time decision last night, and his illness didn’t allow him to play. However, he’s traveling with the team and he might play tonight against the Panthers.
Nylander’s been playing well in a bottom-six role. He’s scored five points during the last three games he’s played and now has scored 26 goals and added 38 assists (for 64 points) in 68 games.
Item Five: Erik Kallgren Starts in Net Tonight Against the Panthers
Rookie goalie Erik Kallgren will get the start in net tonight in the second half of the Maple Leafs’ back-to-back Florida games. Kallgren started the season well, had a bit of a return to reality, but has won his last two games even though he’s given up up six goals in his last two games. He’s given up 14 goals in his four games.
On the season, the 25-year-old Kallgren has put together a 4-2-1 record, a goals-against-average of 2.71, and a save percentage of .906 in the seven games he’s played. Tonight he gets a chance to play against the NHL’s best offense in the Panthers.
Item Six: Jake Muzzin Is Likely to Play Tonight
The last word I heard from coach Keefe was that Jake Muzzin’s concussion is better and that he’s likely to see action tonight. If he does, it would be the first time Muzzin has played since February 21.
Muzzin is an important part of the Maple Leafs’ defense and the team certainly suffered when he was out of the lineup during the last two postseasons with injuries.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Tonight the team goes at it again. This time they play the Panthers, who they are now trailing by seven points in the Atlantic Division. Last night’s win was the Maple Leafs’ fifth win in a row.
One more litmus test for the Maple Leafs tonight against another tough team. The Panthers have won all four games they’ve played since the Maple Leafs beat them the last time the two teams met. Is it possible the team can go two for two in Florida? Who’d have thunk it.
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