Given that the final score was 5-2 after the San Jose Sharks beat the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night, you wouldn’t believe it was a goalie battle. But it was. In fact, one unlucky bounce spelled defeat for the Maple Leafs.
Other than that, both goalies did well. To Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell’s credit, the Sharks dominated most of the second period – outshooting the Maple Leafs 18-6 – but they weren’t able to take a lead into the third.
It wasn’t the start the team had hoped for on this road trip, but the Maple Leafs have a chance to redeem themselves against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. Nothing is assured yet for the playoffs. As the road trip continues, in this post I want to help keep fans up-to-date on the news and rumors coming from the team.
Item One: Jack Campbell’s Not Able to Shut the Door
Although Campbell kept the game close by stopping 33 shots, it was a lucky Sharks bounce in the third period that sealed the loss. Sharks fourth-liner Antti Suomela’s shot was stopped by Campbell, but the rebound bounced off the backboards right to Stefan Noesen, who smacked it into the net for the game-winner.
Although he was solid, Campbell wasn’t forgiving himself and noted: “I feel responsible for this one. When the second intermission came around I thought we had weathered the storm. But I wasn’t able to shut the door on them. That’s the bottom line.”
The Sharks scored two goals in less than a minute in the third period, which cost the game. It also cost the new goalie his first loss in regulation time since arrived in Toronto. The 28-year-old is now 3-1-1 in five starts for the Maple Leafs and, for the season, has an 11-11-3 record with a 2.82 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage in 25 games.
Item Two: Auston Matthews Simply Keeps Scoring
Auston Matthews scored a goal and had a great assist on Mitch Marner’s goal in the loss. Matthews has scored a goal in all seven games he’s played against the Sharks in his career. It was his 46th goal of the season and pushes his scoring streak to four games (three goals and three assists). He also has 79 points in 67 games, 24 on the power play.
One thing I’m enjoying about Matthews is that he’s always a good quote. That didn’t change after the loss. He was brutally honest in his assessment of the way his team played Tuesday night.
He noted: “They just kept coming and coming and a lot of times we just had no push back … it was tough to get stuff going our way. We just got cut out and they just continued to play and push into our zone and forced us to tire ourselves out.”
Item Three: Mitch Marner Scores a Beautiful Goal
Marner scored a highlight-reel goal in the loss. After taking a pass from Matthews, he went between his legs, brought the puck to his backhand, and slipped a shot between the legs of Sharks goalie Martin Jones late in the second period.
It was Marner’s 16th goal and 65th point in 56 games this season.
Item Four: Calle Rosen Gets First Point with the Maple Leafs
Calle Rosen scored his first point (an assist) since returning to the Maple Leafs in a trade deadline deal. For the season, the 26-year-old Swedish defenseman has three points (all assists) in 11 games. Until injured defensemen Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, and Cody Ceci return he’ll likely see more time.
Item Five: Martin Marincin Has Become a Scoring Machine (Sort of)
Head coach Sheldon Keefe was right about Martin Marincin’s ability to score – noting that he wasn’t surprised when Marincin scored against the Vancouver Canucks the other night.
The seldom-used defenseman came through once again with an assist against the Sharks and is now on a three-game point streak with a goal and two assists. It shows what some regular playing time could do to extend a player’s game.
Item Six: Ilya Mikheyev Has Returned to Practice
I’m trying not to get my hopes up. Although Ilya Mikheyev’s lacerated wrist might be healing and he’s returned to practice, it doesn’t mean he’s ready to lace up the skates full time. Still, his recovery is progressing and he should return to the team before the postseason.
The 25-year-old Russian scored 23 points in 39 games before his late-December surgery. I can’t help but believe his return will add a spark to the team’s chemistry.
Item Seven: Cody Ceci and Morgan Rielly Likely Won’t Play on the California Road Trip
Although both Ceci and Rielly are with the team on its three-game road trip to California, it’s unlikely they’ll play. Both injured defensemen have been skating for a few days and are likely to be day-to-day soon. It seems that the team is planning for both to return for the Mar. 10 game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
With the loss to the Sharks, the Maple Leafs weren’t able to record their first four-game winning streak since December. Although it’s not imperative that the team goes on a long winning streak, winning is better than losing. Right now the Maple Leafs have a comfortable margin over the Florida Panthers for the last playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.
Matthews has moved into second place for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy and is one behind David Pastrnak. I believe he’ll soon be the leader, with a chance to score 60 goals this season. He’s growing stronger as the season progresses.