The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 less than a minute into overtime, when the NHL’s goal-scoring leader Auston Matthews scored his 22nd goal off a fluky play that bounced off two Oilers’ players and into the net. It wasn’t the first fluky goal the Maple Leafs scored on the evening; and, honestly, fluky is what it took to beat the Oilers’ goalie Mike Smith who had a standout night.
In fact, for as good as Jack Campbell has been recently in goal for the Maple Leafs, he wasn’t that good last night. However, he was good enough; and, this time his teammates came through in the third period to take over the game. It’s a team game after all; so, in the end, it all works out.
However, last night Smith was clearly the better goalie, but fluky sometimes wins and this was one of those fluky nights. The Maple Leafs roared back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Oilers to retain first place in the North Division. The Winnipeg Jets lost to the Calgary Flames, and that helped the Maple Leafs’ cause as well.
As a bit of aside, for hockey fans in general, it was good to see Tyson Barrie play well. He’s a different player with the Oilers than I saw last season in Toronto. It’s good to see what he can do on the ice.
In this post, I’ll comment on the game action and share how I believe it might impact the team’s moving into the near future.
Item One: The Alex Galchenyuk Experiment Seems to Be Working
Could Alex Galchenyuk have found a home in Toronto? We are only three games into his time with the team, but he’s playing well. On Saturday, he started lower in the lineup but moved up to the top-six and produced. He was a central player in a number of highlight videos I watched after the game as I worked to research this post. On the night, Galchenyuk scored two assists in the team’s 4-3 overtime victory.
Galchenyuk seems to be developing some chemistry with John Tavares and William Nylander. All season the Maple Leafs have been shuffling players around to find a solid partner for Tavares and Nylander. We know that, at least a few seasons ago, Galchenyuk had shown strong offensive talent. It would be a great benefit for the team if he were the missing link on the second line.
Two things happened that seem to firm-up Galchenyuk’s position with the team. In an article yesterday, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe reported that he’s been watching Galchenyuk in slow motion video and he’s seen some impressive things he’d missed watching and coaching the game from the bench.
Second, I watched an after-the-game interview with Tavares who spoke about how great Galchenyuk was to play with. That bodes well for the second line, and it looked as if Tavares was more present and productive on the ice last night. Whether that means a more-permanent move for Galchenyuk to the top-six I don’t know, but so far so good. He’s scored three assists in three games, and it’s tough to fault a point-a-game player.
Item Two: Jack Campbell’s Still Perfect on the Season
Despite not being on his game in the same way he’s been in other games, Campbell made just enough saves (17 of them) to win the game. He’s confident in goal and his team seems to like playing well in front of him. His teammates truly seem to like him as a teammate. But does that make him the goalie the organization can count on to carry them through a long postseason run to the Stanley Cup? The jury’s still out it seems.
What we do know is that Campbell’s won three games in a row since he assumed the staring goalie’s job because Frederik Andersen’s been out with a lower-body injury. I might be that Campbell can pull a Jordan Binnington and lead his team to the Stanley Cup, but Campbell’s only played 70 games in his NHL career so it’s tough to know right now if he could be the goalie who can carry a team in the postseason.
Item Three: John Tavares Scores His 10th Goal of the Season
It seems as if people are on John Tavares’ case this season for his lack of scoring; however, he’s scoring at a rate that seems consistent to me over his career. The 30-year-old Maple Leafs’ captain is clicking along at 28 points in 34 games. He’d be the leading scorer on a number of NHL teams. More would be better, of course; still, he’s not playing poorly.
However, it’s true that Tavares isn’t up to par with some of his statistics. For example, his 9.9 shooting percentage is lower than his 13.2 average over his career.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
The Maple Leafs and the Oilers will complete both their two-game mini-series and will their nine-game season’s series on Monday night in Toronto. Does that mean the end of the season has to be close?
The Oilers had a lot of jump in their game starting in the second period because they were well rested. Their three-game mini-series with the Montreal Canadiens was postponed when two Canadiens’ players were added to the COVID-19 protocol list last week.
As an aside from hockey writing, it’s still a dangerous time in the world. I encourage all readers to take the right steps to wisely stay safe and to help keep others safe as well.
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