The schedule suggested that the Toronto Maple Leafs’ game on Tuesday against the Calgary Flames was going to be difficult to win. The team had played the night before against the Montreal Canadiens and was traveling home to play a back-to-back against a well-rested Flames team. They lost 3-2 in overtime, when new goalie David Rittich held the team in there until a great move by former teammate Johnny Gaudreau.
Last night’s game seemed to add up to the same scenario, except this time in favor of the Maple Leafs. The schedule seemed to set the Winnipeg Jets up for failure. The Jets had been on the road for 17 of their last 22, were just finishing a five-game road trip, and had played the Ottawa Senators the night before. But obviously no one told the Jets they were supposed to lose because, after falling behind 1-0 to Alex Galchenyuk’s goal that no one realized was in until later in the game, the Jets came back and took it to the Maple Leafs by a 5-2 score.
In truth, Jack Campbell, who had just come off his first loss of the season, absorbed his second. He was mercifully pulled halfway through the first period after giving up three goals in six shots. The truth is that, as good as Campbell had been previously in the season, he simply wasn’t good enough in this game to carry his team to a win.
In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at and comment about some of the events of the game. Then I’ll look at other news emerging about the team.
Item One: Jack Campbell Has His Worst Game in the Blue and White Uniform
Campbell was coming off his first loss of the 2020-21 season on Monday in Montreal. In fact, it was the first regulation loss the team had suffered since March 19. In that game, after racking up save after save in previous games, Campbell uncharacteristically had a save percentage of less than .900 when he gave up three goals on 24 shots during the 4-2 loss.
The Jets came into last night’s game averaging 3.25 goals per game on the road this season, which is ranked fourth in the NHL. They improved that average last night. First, Campbell surrendered three goals in the first six shots; then, replacement David Rittich gave up a goal in 17 shots; and, finally the Jets added an empty-net goal.
In shades of Michael Hutchinson against the Ottawa Senators, head coach Sheldon Keefe didn’t wait long to pull his record-setting goalie with just over half the first period gone. Campbell’s record now sits at 11-2-0 with a goals-against average of 2.19 and a save percentage of .922 for the season. Still good, but the big test will be how Campbell comes out in the next game.
Item Two: John Tavares Keeps Scoring – Thanks Mitch Marner
John Tavares added a goal and an assist to his season’s total in the 5-2 loss to the Jets. Tavares goal came on a redirection in front of the net assisted by Jason Spezza. Tavares’ assist came on Alex Galchenyuk’s third goal as a member of the Blue and White.
The 30-year-old Tavares now has scored 10 points in his last seven games and for the 2020-21 season has scored 14 goals and 24 assists (for 38 points) in 44 games. He’s starting to climb closer to the point-a-game mark.
It was Tavares’ tenth point (four goals, six assists) in last seven games. If he played with Mitch Marner more regularly, I get a feeling he’d score much more than he does on the second line. Tavares’ situation on the second line simply reinforces just how special the Auston Matthews and Marner partnership is.
Item Three: Auston Matthews Misses Another Game with a Vague Injury
Matthews didn’t play in Thursday’s game and the word is that he’s day-to-day. Given that the Vancouver Canucks mini-series with the Maple Leafs has been postponed, he’ll have some time to rest and will likely play next Thursday night also against the Jets. When asked whether Matthews’ injury was similar to his others, Keefe noted “sort of.”
Matthews is thought to have re-injured his hand after a hit from Michael Stone during the second period of Tuesday’s game against the Flames. After that hit, he skated straight to the bench.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
I’m looking forward to a few things over the next little while with the team. First, as I noted in a previous post, I’m setting up a Joe Thornton watch to anticipate his next goal that would make him the eldest goal-scorer in Maple Leafs’ history.
Second, I’m looking forward for the Maple Leafs to figure out their power play. At one time, the Maple Leafs had the No. 1-ranked power play in the NHL. But they’ve gone 1 for 43 since March 9th. That’s amazingly poor given the offensive skill this team has.
Third, I’m anxious to see Nick Foligno play which – if I’m counting correctly – might be against the Jets next Thursday. Foligno had a choice in his move to Toronto and gave it the thumbs up. He does know some members of the team, having skated with Matthews before, knows captain Tavares a bit, has admired Thornton, and is friends with Spezza from their days playing together in Ottawa.
As Foligno noted about the move, “Everything just felt right. I’m a guy that plays off my gut, my heart. My heart was telling me this was the right move.”
Welcome to the remainder of the 2020-21 Maple Leafs’ season.