In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take an early look at how the last three Maple Leafs’ starting goalies are doing through their first three games of the 2022-23 season. Second, I’ll discuss the team’s motivation and name three players whose motivational play has been strong.
Finally, I’ll take a look at the upcoming game in Winnipeg tonight against the Jets and remember the game played last season on December 5. That game resulted in the only suspension of Jason Spezza’s NHL career.
Item One: Jack Campbell, Frederik Andersen & Ilya Samsonov
On Thursday night in Edmonton, the Edmonton Oilers beat the Carolina Hurricane by a score of 6-4. At the same time, the Maple Leafs beat the Dallas Stars by a score of 3-2. The goaltending duel in Edmonton featured two recent former Maple Leafs’ starters – Jack Campbell (Oilers) and Freddie Andersen (Hurricanes). (from “Edmonton Oilers rain down on the Hurricanes in 6-4 win,” Robert Tychkowski, Edmonton Sun, 21/10/2022).
Coming into that game, Campbell had been playing hot and cold. He made 33 saves against the Vancouver Canucks but was pulled quickly after giving up four goals on only 11 shots against the Calgary Flames. Andersen, on the other hand, entered the game on a hot streak. He had a record of 2-0 and had given up only two goals in his games this season. Entering that game, he’d put together a save percentage of .964.
Campbell played well, stopping 36 shots in the high-scoring game. He made some great saves when the Oilers needed him to. Carolina pushed hard to tie the game, but Campbell held them at bay.
After the game, former Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman called Campbell “solid back there.” Hyman added that Campbell “made all the timely saves we needed him to make; he was great.”
So where do the three goalies stand statistically so far for the season? Obviously, it’s very early yet. But so far, Ilya Samsonov is holding his own.
In the three games he’s played, Samsonov has a 3-0-0 record, a 1.96 goals-against-average, and a .927 save percentage. Andersen has a 2-1-0 record, a 2.35 goals-against-average, and a .920 save percentage. Campbell has a 2-1 record, a 5.08 goals-against-average, and a .874 save percentage.
So far, life is good with Samsonov.
Item Two: Three Motivated Maple Leafs
Thursday’s game against the Stars was interesting, especially coming against such a frustrating loss to the Arizona Coyotes. During the Coyotes’ game, the Maple Leafs simply – to my eyes – didn’t look motivated to push the game through the Coyotes’ pyramid defence.
In fact, during the first intermission of the game, Elliotte Friedman said that if he were the Maple Leafs he’d be worried about the team’s lack of energy. As Maple Leafs’ fans know, Nick Robertson fortunately answered the bell.
That said, one player who’s looked motivated throughout the regular season’s starts has been the oft-rumored trade chip, Alex Kerfoot. He’s played a solid game in each start from what I’ve seen. When I watch him play, I keep saying to myself “I can see why (head coach Sheldon) Keefe likes him.”
Another really motivated player has been Nick Robertson. His scoring exploits during the Stars’ game were the difference in the outcome. However, he also made a difference with his energy. The one play I keep replaying in my mind was the scramble in front of the Stars’ net. Robertson just kept digging at the puck: there was a flurry of activity all around him and he just focused on digging, pushing, and fighting. That’s the kind of motivation that picks a team up.
I’m guessing coach Keefe saw that energy and just kept throwing Robertson out there, including during the overtime. Good thing.
I know that Michael Bunting got benched against the Montreal Canadiens for making a bad play that ended up as a goal. However, I think he’s a third-motivated Maple Leafs’ player. Sure he’s good playing with his first-line partners Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, but his play without Matthews and Marner has been growing stronger, too.
Bunting’s pass on Robertson’s first goal was perfect. From what I’ve seen, Bunting’s skills are expanding. He’s also willing to engage physically beyond being his pesky self. But, he isn’t big enough to control all the chippy play directed at the team’s elite forwards.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Speaking of chippy play, the Maple Leafs played a game last December 5 in Winnipeg that was a gong show. Matthews and Pierre Luc-Dubois got into a wrestling match along the boards – for which Matthews was penalized.
Neal Pionk went knee-to-knee on Rasmus Sandin, which lit a fire in Jason Spezza’s tummy. Spezza went after Pionk and was later suspended for six games (reduced to four) for kneeing Pionk. It was Spezza’s first suspension of his career.
This past week, Matthews was banged up in the Stars game and was given Friday off from practice. Wayne Simmonds is going to play tonight. Do you think coach Keefe remembers that game?
By the way, the Jets were given multiple odd-man rushes and torched rookie Joseph Woll for six goals in that game to lose 6-3. Different outcome tonight?