Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Campbell, Nylander, Muzzin & Mrazek

Toronto Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe obviously wanted the team that had lost the two previous road games by a huge margin (two goals for and 11 against) to have a chance to redeem themselves. There were no lineup changes as his team suited up against the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday night. 

While redemption didn’t come quickly – apparently it took a heated first intermission conversation after the team hit the dressing room down 2-0 – it eventually did come. In his talk with the media after the game, Keefe said that he overheard the players challenging each other to stop talking and start doing. 

Related: Maple Leafs’ Keefe: If Nylander’s Misunderstood, He Needs to Own It

Given that Keefe also noted that he’d been on his players ”about protecting our goal and they (the Blackhawks) scored two. That’s got to stop.” In hindsight, it wasn’t the way the coaching staff or the players drew it up in their heads, but perhaps a huge comeback win is just what the doctor ordered for this team. They certainly need their mojo back.

Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs
Sheldon Keefe, Head Coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at the game and some of the redemption that emerged from it. I’ll also wonder about Maple Leafs’ defenseman Jake Muzzin and wonder if there’s something wrong with him physically. 

Item One: William Nylander Keeps Playing Well

I keep looking for the William Nylander that many Maple Leafs’ fans had soured on, but I’m not seeing him. What I saw last night was a player who wanted to win and was battling for pucks on the boards and scrimmaging around in tough places. He also scored the game-winning goal in the 3-2 overtime win. That clutch goal, scored in overtime, could turn out to be one of the most important goals of the Maple Leafs’ season. Fans won’t know for a while, but this one seemed big.

Nylander’s goal capped off a strong comeback effort by the Maple Leafs. He now has scored three goals and three assists in the eight games he’s played this season. Given the team’s scoring woes, that’s quite an accomplishment. But perhaps the greater accomplishment is the emergence of a new leader on the team. 

After the game, it was mostly Nylander – although there were others – who was forthright with the media about the team’s conversation during the first intermission. After the game, Nylander shared with the media that, ”Tonight, we got closer to where we want to be, but not fully there yet.” 

Related: Canucks’ Boeser Needs to be Getting More Power-Play Time

Nylander further revealed that the team challenged themselves and each other by shaking themselves “to wake up. Like stop feeling sorry for ourselves, Nobody’s going to get us out of this, it’s only the guys in the locker room.” 

All this from a young player many fans believe is completely self-focused. Nylander’s leadership seems to be emerging. 

Takeaway Two: Jack Campbell Stands Tall to Hold Off the Blackhawks

One of the tipping points of this season will be how good goalie Jack Campbell really is. After starting the season well, he had given up 10 goals and fallen into a three-game losing streak (0-2-1). But after a first period where he gave up two Blackhawks’ goals, he shut the door. 

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Typical of Campbell, he believed he had let the team down. He shared, “I wasn’t happy whatsoever with my first period. I knew I owed the team better than that.” Teammate Mitch Marner rebutted Campbell after the game by saying that Campbell has “done a lot for this team. He’s the backbone right now.”

Perhaps he could have stopped one of the scores, but what I saw was a Blackhawks’ team that was given pretty easy access to Campbell’s net. In the end, Campbell stopped 27 of the 29 shots he faced. Those two Chicago goals came during the first 12 minutes of the game, but Campbell kept everything else out after that.

Related: Buffalo Sabres Jersey History

If he ever were gone, it seems that the 29-year-old is back. He’ll probably start against the surprising Detroit Red Wings in the team’s next game on Saturday. As it stands right now, Campbell now holds a goals-against-average of 2.31 and a save percentage of .918 in seven games over the early course of the season.

Takeaway Three: Is Jake Muzzin Injured?

Jake Muzzin made an error in last night’s game that cost his team a goal. I know right now among Maple Leafs’ THW writers there’s a sense that the pairing of Muzzin and Justin Holl isn’t playing well and needs to be changed. There’s no argument from me that the pairing we’ve come to trust has played below par. I’m simply not used to seeing Muzzin make mistakes.

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

I have to wonder if there isn’t something wrong with Muzzin. If Muzzin’s on the limp that makes it tough for Holl. Holl benefits from Muzzin’s good play; and, if Muzzin can’t play up to par, the pairing won’t be strong. 

Looking backward, Muzzin, for the second postseason in a row, was hurt during the playoffs. Something just popped. I’m not that kind of a doctor and I don’t want to start rumors, but I have to wonder if there isn’t something bothering him.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

I’ve been pleased to see that Petr Mrazek’s groin injury has sufficiently healed to allow him to practice with the team this week. As noted, I believe Campbell will start against the Red Wings, but I’m looking forward to seeing Mrazek in goal again soon. 

Related: Maple Leafs Display New Goaltending Philosophy with Mrazek Signing

Having Mrazek makes the team better. He’s only played a single game with the Maple Leafs, and that was the goofy October 14 game where he was victimized by bounces to the tune of three goals to the Ottawa Senators.