Well, it didn’t take long before Jack Campbell endeared himself to other Toronto Maple Leafs players. All game long against the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 15, when play stopped in front of his net, he was tapping away on his teammates – thanking them for this play or that as they helped him keep shots out of the net. Obviously, it worked because his Maple Leafs beat a surprisingly resistant and determined Senators’ team that pressed all night long. The final score was 4-2 Toronto.
It also didn’t take long to ascertain Campbell’s nickname. Auston Matthews, when speaking about the team’s new goalie after the game, opened the can of noodles when he noted:
”Soupy was great for us. He made some huge saves. I mean, you see him in there and he’s having so much fun. He just loves to compete and loves to battle for the guys. He came up with some big saves and obviously a big two points for us to pull out.”
So, Soupy it is. And, given rookie Ilya Mikheyev’s note at the beginning of the season about loving soup so much, I’m wondering if the young Russian had any input into the trade that brought Campbell to the Maple Leafs as their new backup goalie.
As the team emerges from task #1 of winning the first of this weekend’s back-to-back games against the Senators and awaits task #2 of winning against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday, I want to help Maple Leafs fans stay up-to-date on what’s happening with the team and what rumors might be coming forth.
Item One: Sheldon Keefe Thinks Differently About His Goalies
Compared to former head coach Mike Babcock, new head coach Sheldon Keefe thinks differently about using his goalies. That fact was shown against the Senators when Campbell, who just came to the Maple Leafs on Feb. 5, started in net against the Senators and starter Frederik Andersen was moved to the crease for Sunday’s game against the Sabres. Campbell’s been darn good (please note that I resisted the temptation to use the modifier “Mmm Mmm” from the vintage 1990s Campbell’s soup commercial) and his record has now improved to 3-0-1 since Toronto acquired him.
Still, Keefe gave Campbell an easier task. Perhaps it was as simple as wanting to give Andersen an extra day off; however, Babcock never made the choice to start his backup in the first game of a back-to-back this season. I have no doubt Andersen would’ve started against Ottawa if Babcock was still calling the shots.
Andersen’s first game back after a neck injury that occurred when Florida Panthers’ Frank Vatrano slid into his crease on Feb. 3 was less than spectacular. He wasn’t strong and gave up three goals on only 19 shots in a 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars. Maple Leafs fans have come to expect better from him.
There’s only one explanation for Keefe starting Campbell against the Senators: he believed that choice gave his team its best chance of winning. It will be interesting to see how the goalie deployment goes for the rest of the regular season.
Item Two: Worst Maple Leafs Trade at the Deadline
On Feb. 13, ESPN released its NHL Power Rankings, but also named what they believed was the worst Maple Leafs trade at the trade deadline. They choose the March 13, 1996, trade between the Maple Leafs and the New York Islanders.
In that trade, the team gave up forward Darby Hendrickson, forward Sean Haggerty, defenseman Kenny Jonsson, and their 1997 first-round draft pick to the Islanders for forward Wendel Clark, defenseman Mathieu Schneider, and defenseman (and now Senators’ coach) D.J. Smith.
In analyzing that trade, Clark was a huge Maple Leafs fan-favorite and the team overpaid for him by trading away Jonsson who then played 597 games with the Islanders and the 1997 first-round draft choice. That first-round choice turned into Roberto Luongo after the Maple Leafs dropped 12 points in the standings and the Islanders ended up picking at No. 4 overall.
Can Maple Leafs fans ever imagine what team history might have been had the team plucked Luongo at the 1997 NHL Entry Draft?
Item Three: William Nylander Ties Father Michael’s Best Scoring Season
When William Nylander redirected John Tavares’ shot past Senators goalie Marcus Hogberg, it was his career-best 26th goal of the season. Perhaps as interestingly, it tied his father Michael’s career-best that he scored with the New York Rangers in 2006-07.
When asked about it, the young Nylander smiled and said: “I have a way better shot than what he had, so I should be getting a couple more than him.”
Item Four: Mason Marchment’s On Fire with the Toronto Marlies
Mason Marchment has been making magic as a goalscorer with the Toronto Marlies recently. He’s scored seven goals in four games and his physicality and overall performance have been off the charts. In the past three games against the Belleville Senators, who currently lead the AHL, he’s scored five goals. Marchment was recalled from the Marlies today.
Head coach Greg Moore said of Marchment, “There were a couple of penalties I was kind of unhappy with, but he has been playing good hockey of late and that is part of his game, too. He gets under the skin of the opponent. He has to find that line and not cross it.”
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
With the Maple Leafs’ win over the Senators, their record improved to 31-20-8, and the team currently sits above the line that separates teams in the playoffs from the teams who aren’t. Their victory also opened a four-point lead over the Florida Panthers for third place in the Atlantic Division.
In part, the Maple Leafs can thank the Edmonton Oilers for that lead. The Oilers beat the Panthers in Florida 4-1 earlier on Saturday. Now, it’s up to the Maple Leafs to win in Buffalo on game two of the back-to-back on Sunday. If the team can win, at least for now they’ll be in the playoff picture.