If Sheldon Keefe’s game plan against the Philadelphia Flyers was to make sure that Jack Campbell got a lot more work in this game than he had in recent games, the plan worked very well. The Flyers had 58.5 percent of the scoring chances and 57.3 percent of the expected goals in the game. However, Campbell stood tall, only allowing two goals while the mishmash of lines that Keefe put on the ice scored five of their own.
It marked the ninth game in the last 13th that the Maple Leafs scored five or more goals. During that stretch, they’ve scored 66 goals while giving up 42 and posting a 13-1-1 record. In that period, they’ve solidified their hold on second place in the Atlantic Division to eight points over the third-place Tampa Bay Lightning and nine points over the fourth-place Boston Bruins.
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The Maple Leafs have put themselves in a position where a win over the Lightning in Tampa on Thursday night will assure the Maple Leafs the home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Last night, the win also put the Maple Leafs’ winning percentage back over 0.700; and, of course, they once again set single-season records for wins (51) and points (108), something each win they record in their last five games will add to.
Comment One: Jack Campbell is Back
The Jack Campbell we saw in the Flyers’ game looked to us like the All-Star Jack Campbell we saw during the first half of this season. He exuded confidence. That’s two games in a row now where Campbell’s save percentage was North of 0.930 percent. It was noted on the broadcast last night that Campbell is the first Maple Leafs’ goalie ever to hit 30 wins in a season while losing less than ten games in regulation.
Since Campbell came back from his recent injury, he’s 6-0 in six starts with a 0.915 save percentage and a 2.48 goals-against-average. More importantly, he’s stopping the shots he should stop. If he continues to play this well, it bodes well for success in the playoffs. If he plays as he has in the past two games, that would be even better.
Comment Two: Maple Leafs Score a Goal of the Century?
In the dying seconds of the second period, the Maple Leafs scored a goal that was 109 years and 3,278 games in the making. That’s the combined age and regular-season games played by Jason Spezza, who scored the goal, and Mark Giordano and Wayne Simmonds, who both assisted on the goal.
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Sportsnet Stats tweeted that it is the first time in over 50 years that two players 38 years old or older had combined on a goal. On December 26, 1969, 39-year-old George Armstrong scored a goal that was assisted by 39-year-old Tim Horton.
Comment Three: Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds Are Catching Stride
Jason Spezza’s goal was his first goal in 21 games. His last goal was the game-tying goal in the third period of a game the Maple Leafs ultimately lost in overtime to the Columbus Blue Jackets on February 22. While every other Maple Leafs’ player seems to be setting records, Spezza’s 11 goals and 22 points mark the lowest total he’s had in his career since his rookie season when he scored seven goals and 21 points in 33 games.
That said, Spezza’s been a lot more noticeable in games lately; and, he seems to be catching his stride going into the playoffs. He also seems to be upping his physical play of late.
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Wayne Simmonds’ assist on Spezza’s goal was his second point in seven games. It took Simmonds 22 games to register his two previous points. Simmonds was also robbed on a great scoring chance by Martin Jones earlier in the game. Simmonds seems to be stepping his game up recently as well. He’s recorded 18 hits in his last four games, and 38 hits in his last 10 games.
What’s Ahead for the Maple Leafs?
Coming up might be the Maple Leafs’ most important game of the season. A win in Tampa Bay on Thursday over the Lightning would assure the Maple Leafs of home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs and give them a 3-1 edge in their season’s series. Winning that game would also allow the team to concentrate solely on doing what they feel they need to do to get ready for the postseason.
Both Auston Matthews and Jake Muzzin are making the trip to Florida and could play in one or more games on this three-game road trip that concludes on Sunday in Washington. If we were to bet on either player getting into the Lightning game, our money would be on Matthews.
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It would be good to see him hit 60 goals on the season, especially if he could do it against the Lightning’s great goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy had a poor game against the Detroit Red Wings last night and lost 4-3. That loss helped the Maple Leafs’ quest for home-ice advantage. (from “Red Wings finally solve Lightning goalie Vasilevskiy, beat Cup champions,” Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News, 19/04/2022).
[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.]