In looking back at the Toronto Maple Leafs’ four-game road trip completed thus far, there were a number of players’ successes that we haven’t yet written about. With the offensive displays the team has been generating, several players have added to their own statistical totals.
For example, in this edition of Maple Leafs’ commentary, we’ll take a look at Morgan Rielly’s season’s success thus far. We’ll also take a look at and comment about Jake Muzzin’s return to the active lineup against the Florida Panthers. Finally, we’ll comment upon the goalie situation that presented itself as a result of the Panthers’ game.
Comment One: Morgan Rielly Is Having a Really Strong Season
Morgan Rielly had two assists in the Panthers’ game to give him 51 assists and 60 points on the season. It’s the second time in Rielly’s nine-year career he’s reached those levels. He needs two more assists to set a personal high in assists in a season.
Reilly is twelve points shy of his personal best 72 points. Both personal best marks were set in the 2018-19 season when Rielly finished fifth in the voting for the Norris Trophy.
Rielly’s 60 points this season tie for fifth in NHL scoring for a defenseman with Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He now has a total of 365 points in 642 games played in his career and sits solidly in fifth place for all-time scoring for a Maple Leafs’ defenseman. He’s 35 points behind Ian Turnbull in fourth and 38 points up on Jim McKenny who sits in sixth.
Comment Two: Jake Muzzin’s Back
Jake Muzzin seemed like the Muzzin of old in his return to the lineup. From what we saw, he didn’t show any ill effects from his recovery from two concussions.
Related: Today in Hockey History: April 7
Muzzin scored a goal, had four shots on the net, and led the team with seven hits. Muzzin also blocked four shots and was a plus-one in his 17:41 of ice time. He led all Maple Leafs’ defensemen with a 55 percent expected goals-for share when he was on the ice at five on five.
It was curious that Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe sat Ilya Lyubushkin. The Russian Bear has played really well since coming to the Maple Leafs. Keefe did say not to read anything into that move, and that Lyubushkin would be back sooner than later. We think he’s looking at a variety of options for the postseason.
Comment Three: Erik Kallgren and Jack Campbell Couldn’t Hold the Lead
Neither Maple Leafs’ goalie had a game to write home about against the Panthers. Kallgren allowed three goals on 23 shots to post a 0.870 save percentage and let in a momentum-changing shorthanded goal on an unscreened slapshot from Radko Gudas from just inside the Maple Leafs’ blueline in the second period.
The team then had a scare when a shot appeared to hit Kallgren in the lower face and neck area later in the second period. Kallgren left the game but did return to the Maple Leafs’ bench in the third period, still looking like he was in some pain. Keefe stated after the game that Kallgren was okay.
Campbell didn’t fare very well when he came into the game. He allowed four goals on 26 shots including the game-winner in overtime. However, it was not the best situation for a goalie to come into cold, with the Panthers swarming the Maple Leafs at that point in the game. Campbell did make some highlight-reel saves late in the game to allow the Maple Leafs to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Comment Four: It Was a Tough Game to Limit Playing Time
With the Maple Leafs giving up the lead in the third period, needing a goal to tie the game, and having multiple power-play opportunities, the situation didn’t allow coach Keefe to limit the ice time of his top players. Marner finished the night with 25:18 of ice time and Matthews had 24:41.
That turned out poorly in the end for the team. It was obvious that both Matthews and Marner were gassed in the overtime.
What’s Ahead for the Maple Leafs?
Tonight the Maple Leafs play a Dallas Stars team that is fighting for its playoff lives. We don’t expect this game to be the wild offensive affair the Panthers’ game was. The Stars have scored 92 goals fewer goals this season than Florida.
However, we don’t think this game will be easy. Our guess is that Campbell will get the start for the Maple Leafs as long as he’s physically capable of playing. If so, it will be Campbell’s fourth game played in six days since coming back from his rib injury. Talk about being thrown into the fire.
It will be interesting to see what defensive changes coach Keefe will make for this game, and we expect him to make some changes. Lyubushkin has been playing too well to sit out another game. We think it will be a tossup between Timothy Liljegren and Justin Holl to see who sits. It would be interesting to see a Muzzin and Lyubushkin combination on the backend.
The Maple Leafs then fly home to take on the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.
[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.]
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf