Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Campbell, Matthews, Clifford & Kallgren

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. 

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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. 

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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).

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

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. 

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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

It seems that Auston Matthews is a good enough player that, when he decides to do something, most of the time he simply goes out and does it. I heard a recent critique of Matthews’ play that suggests he doesn’t smile enough on the ice. Perhaps that lack of smiling correlates to his deep determination to lead his team? Maybe smiling on the ice is over-rated? 

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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. 

Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews
Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews
(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

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. 

Toronto Maple Leafs William Nylander
Toronto Maple Leafs William Nylander (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

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. 

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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. 

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

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.

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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.