Maple Leafs Commentary: Matthews, Marner, Campbell, Abruzzese

In what could be a playoff first-round preview the Toronto Maple Leafs rode into Tampa Bay and came away with a 6-2 win over the Lightning. There were a number of positive takeaways in the game for the Maple Leafs. 

Morning Skate newsletter Click To Subscribe

In this edition of Maple Leafs’ commentary, we’ll share our thoughts about what some of these positive takeaways were. As well, we’ll share what we saw as an odd call by the officials during the game.

Comment One: Auston Matthews’ Record Collection

What more can be said about Auston Matthews? He’s cementing his legacy as the most talented goal-scoring Maple Leafs’ player of all time. If not for the pandemic, the 2021-22 season would most likely have been his third consecutive 50 goal season.

Matthews scored his fourth hat trick of the season and seventh of his career to tie Rick Vaive’s record for the most goals in a season at 54. Matthews has scored 47 goals in his last 47 games and is now on pace to score 65 goals. If he manages that, Matthews would become the thirteenth player in the history of the NHL to score 65 goals in a season.

Sign up for our regular 'Maple Leafs Newsletter' for all the latest.

Matthews is riding a 13-game point-scoring streak in which he’s scored 17 goals and added seven assists for a total of 24 points in those 13 games. Matthews passed Bob Pulford to move into ninth place in all-time scoring for the Maple Leafs with 253 goals. He needs seven more goals to tie Wendel Clark for eighth.  

Related: 7 Cool Facts About Maple Leafs’ Goalie Jack Campbell

Matthews added an assist on Mitch Marner’s goal in the third period of the game to give him four points in the game, 92 points on the season, and 443 points during his career. His 443 points also moved Matthews past Wendel Clark into 16th place in Maple Leafs’ all-time scoring.

Matthews also becomes the first Maple Leafs’ player in 38 years and the fifth player in Maple Leafs’ history to score four hat tricks in a season. The other four are Reg Noble (five in 1917-18), Babe Dye (five in 1924-25), Darryl Sittler (five in 1980-81), and Rick Vaive (four in 1983-84).

Comment Two: Mitch Marner Is Simply Magical

Before we get into Marner’s night, we want to point out the subjectiveness of statistic compiling. After Marner scored last night he had four points in the game, with a goal and three assists. When we looked at the postgame stat sheet, it showed that he had a goal and two assists for three points. The official scorer for the game took away the assists that were originally given to Marner and Michael Bunting on Matthews’ third goal and changed the goal to unassisted.  

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

We went back and watched that play a few times including in slow motion. On the play, Bunting causes a turnover in the Tampa end. Matthews picks up the puck and passes it to Marner. Marner backhands the puck in front of the net. Mikhail Sergachev attempts to bat the puck towards the blue line. He makes contact with the puck. At the same time, Bunting’s stick makes contact with Sergachev’s stick. That contact results in the puck going directly onto Matthews’ stick, and he fires it into the net.

In our opinion, Sergachev never had control of the puck. The location of Marner’s pass and Bunting having his stick involved were key elements to the goal. We think both those assists should have stood up. The official scorer obviously saw the play simply as Matthews intercepting the puck off Sergachev’s stick, and decided to label the goal as unassisted. If there can be disagreement on something as simple as crediting goals and assists, we can see where compiling more complicated statistics could be even less straightforward.

THW Betting Guide Banner

As it was, Marner extended his point streak to 10 games with his goal and two assists. In those ten games, Marner has scored six goals and added 16 assists for 22 points. Marner now also has a six-game streak in which he’s scored multiple points. In those six games, he’s scored two goals and thirteen assists for fifteen points. 

In Marner’s last 34 games, he has 23 goals and 40 assists (for 63 points). On the season, Marner has a career-high 29 goals and 55 assists (for 84 points), and he’s jumped up into eighth place in NHL scoring, just one point behind Kirill Kaprizov of the Minnesota Wild and Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames who are tied for sixth.

Marner also passed Wendel Clark in all-time scoring for the Maple Leafs and sits one point behind Matthews in 17th place in all-time Maple Leafs’ scoring with 442 points.

Comment Three: Jack Campbell Is Playing Like an All-Star Again!

Jack Campbell looked like All-Star Jack Campbell versus the Lightning. He made numerous highlight-reel saves in the game. As it was, the 6-2 score flattered the Maple Leafs. The game was not that one-sided. 

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If not for Campbell, the score could have easily been 6-6 or even 7-6 Lightning. Campbell was that good. Tampa had 13 high-danger scoring chances in the game. 

Goaltending is about confidence, and Campbell looked confident in the game and sounded confident in the postgame interviews as well.

Comment Four: Nick Abruzzese Was Noticeable Last Night

While he didn’t play badly in his first game in Philadelphia, Nick Abruzzese wasn’t that noticeable on the ice in the 9:05 he played in that game. With William Nylander out with an illness, Sheldon Keefe moved Abruzzese up to the third line to play alongside Pierre Engvall and David Kampf.  

Related: Who’s Never Picked #1 in the Draft

Abruzzese was a lot more noticeable in this game. While he didn’t figure into the scoring, he did have two shots on net, registered two hits, and had a blocked shot in 12:12 of ice time.

Comment Five: More Curious Refereeing  

Once again we saw a referee make a call we’d never seen before. In the Winnipeg Jets’ game, Wayne Simmonds and Adam Lowry found themselves out of the game because the referee thought they might get into a fight. In this game, at only 5:55 into the first period, Simmonds and Patrick Maroon were both called for ten-minute misconduct penalties for chirping at each other on their benches. We have to ask, is that even in the rulebook?  If it were, NHL history would be filled with millions of ten-minute misconduct penalties. 

Wayne Simmonds Toronto Maple Leafs
Wayne Simmonds, Toronto Maple Leafs Right Wing (Photo by Steven Kingsman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The penalty in the Jets’ game itself could be looked at as a one-off. This call makes it two that could be looked at as the start of a pattern. We can’t help but wonder if this is a planned effort by the NHL to cut down on that aspect of the game. Because we don’t watch all the NHL games, we don’t know if the same thing is happening around the league.  

What’s Ahead for the Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs move on through the Sunshine State. The team is riding a five-game winning streak and now makes the cross-state trek to take on the Florida Panthers tonight. 

Related: Is it Time for Maple Leafs’ Jason Spezza to Hang Up His Skates?

With the Maple Leafs taking control of the Tampa game a little over halfway through it, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe was able to manage the ice time of his players well and spread around ice time fairly evenly. Justin Holl played the most on defense at 21:52, while Mark Giordano played the least at 17:04.  Auston Matthews led the forwards with 17:46.  Of the rest of the forwards who were available for the full 60 minutes, Kyle Clifford played the least at 12:01. Simmonds only played  8:46, but that was most likely due to his ten-minute misconduct penalty.

Being the second of back-to-back games for the Maple Leafs, the Panthers might have a slight rest advantage. However, they are also playing their third game in four nights.

Erik Kallgren Toronto Maple Leafs
Erik Kallgren, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Keefe did acknowledge that Erik Kallgren would get the start. He also stated earlier that Jake Muzzin would likely play in the game. It will be interesting to see who sits and what the pairings will be. William Nylander will be a game-time decision.

[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.]