Maple Leafs Commentary: Campbell, Bunting & Nylander

Leafs Nation got a bit of a shock Sunday when Sheldon Keefe announced before the New York Islanders’ game that the Toronto Maple Leafs’ league’s leading scorer Auston Matthews was going to be in the press box with a day-to-day minor issue.

As it was, the Maple Leafs played a solid defensive game in front of Jack Campbell and walked away with a hard-fought 4-2 win. According to Naturalstattrick, the Maple Leafs limited the low-scoring Islanders team to five high-danger scoring chances in the game.  

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

The win set a new regular season’s all-time Maple Leafs’ record for wins in a season at 50 and for points in a season at 106. It also officially eliminated the Islanders from the postseason.

Comment One: Jack Campbell Was Solid in the Net

While Jack Campbell didn’t have a ton of difficult saves to make, he did play a solid game and made more than enough of the saves he needed to win this game. If not for Kerfoot shooting an attempted clearing pass into his own net and Lyubushkin laying a perfect screen on Campbell in the first period, he might have had a shutout.  

Related: Maple Leafs Made the Right Move Going With Campbell Over Andersen

As it was, Campbell stopped 27 of 29 shots for a 0.931 save percentage and a 2.00 goals-against average in the game. The win gives him a 29-9-4 record on the season, which is a  0.738 winning percentage. By our calculation, that is the third-highest winning percentage of any of the leading goalies in the NHL, behind only Sergei Bobrovsky of the Florida Panthers at 0.833 and Darcy Kuemper of the Colorado Avalanche at 0.770.

Sergei Bobrovsky Florida Panthers
Sergei Bobrovsky of the Florida Panthers is leading in win percentage this season
(Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

When asked about Campbell’s health after the game, Keefe responded “From a health standpoint, he is good. He is as close to 100 percent as you are going to get at this time of year.”  Now the goal is to keep him there.

Comment Two: Michael Bunting Stays Hot

Michael Bunting assisted on Mitch Marner’s goal that tied the game at 1-1 in the first period and on William Nylander’s game-winning power-play goal in the second period. That gives Bunting six points in his last three games and 63 points on the season.  

Related: Maple Leafs’ Bunting Should Be a Calder Trophy Candidate

Bunting now holds a six-point lead over Trevor Zegras of the Anaheim Ducks in the rookie scoring race. Zegras scored a goal and added an assist in the Anaheim Ducks’ 6-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets last night to pass Lucas Raymond of the Detroit Red Wings for second place in rookie scoring. Bunting remains one goal behind Tanner Jeannot of the Nashville Predators, who leads all rookies in goals with 24.

Michael Bunting, Toronto Maple Leafs
Michael Bunting, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by André Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the two points, Bunting passed Marner, Nylander, and Gus Bodnar to move into third place in all-time rookie scoring for the Maple Leafs at 63 points. Bunting needs four points to pass Peter Ihnacak for second place, and seven points to move past Matthews into first in all-time rookie scoring for the Maple Leafs. Unless Maple Leafs’ head coach Keefe decides to rest him going into the playoffs, he has six games in which to do it.

Comment Three: William Nylander Is Getting Even Hotter

William Nylander looked like the best Maple Leafs’ player on the ice last night. He scored the game-winning goal and made a smart “icing, not icing,” play to set up David Kampf for the empty-net assurance goal late in the third period. Nylander led all Maple Leafs’ players with six shots on the net in the game.

Related: Top 10 Undersized NHL Players

Nylander had points in nine of his last 10 games, scoring seven goals and adding eight assists for 15 points in those 10 games. His goal was his 31st, tying his all-time single-season record for goals. His assist was his 43rd, giving him 74 points in 75 games. Both are new single-season records for Nylander. 

William Nylander Toronto Maple Leafs
William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Nylander is presently tied with John Tavares for third in Maple Leafs scoring at 74 points. Both players are one point shy of the point-a-game pace on the season. If they can finish the season averaging a point a game, it would be the first time ever that four players on a Maple Leafs’ team completed a season with a point a game.

What’s Ahead for the Maple Leafs?

After just finishing a four-game in a six-night stretch where the Maple Leafs went 3-1, things don’t get any easier for the team. The team enters another four-game in a six-night stretch that starts at home against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night. The team then flies to Florida to take on the Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday and Saturday. They then take on the Washington Capitals in the second of back-to-back games on Sunday. 

Related: 50 in 50 for Mike Bossy

The key game on this trip will be the four-pointer in Tampa. If the Maple Leafs can win that game, they could all but wrap up the home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]

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