There is a proverb related to weather in March: in like a lion out like a lamb. The Toronto Maple Leafs were in like a lion, stayed like a lamb and out like a lion. Toronto came into March with a nine-point lead in the division and fresh from a dominant series against the Edmonton Oilers. They suffered through two three-game losing streaks during the month. As the calendar turned to April, Toronto is now riding a 6-0-1 streak in the last seven games.
Galchenyuk is Top-Six
Alex Galchenyuk scored his first goal as a Maple Leaf during the 4-2 victory over the Calgary Flames. His road back to being a top-six forward in Toronto has been well documented in a short time. He has been a welcome addition to the John Tavares and William Nylander line. He may have taken the pressure off general manager Kyle Dubas to find another forward at the trade deadline. Galchenyuk was all smiles during the post-game interview.
That goal was his first since opening night when he was with the Ottawa Senators. Galchenyuk has four points in eight games with Toronto.
Where is Frederik Anderson?
Sheldon Keefe gave a brief update on Frederik Andersen last week. “The feedback I’ve been given is that he is progressing well, and we’ll continue to monitor him and re-assess him next week.” That quote is from April 1, so an update should be coming any day now. The Leafs’ number one netminder for the last four seasons hasn’t been on the ice since March 19.
TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun reported on Insider Trading: “The expectation is he will come back fully healthy and will not rush back. And that’s what happened earlier in the season. I’m told Andersen rushed back and wasn’t totally 100 percent. Jack Campbell was out at the time, so he wanted to do that to help his team, but that led to the setback that he’s still dealing with.”
Jack Campbell has been playing exceptionally well – when he plays. Campbell is also dealing with a nagging knee injury. That said, he is a perfect 8-0 in net for Toronto and has a firm hold of the title nicest man in hockey. Overshadowed by Campbell’s success is Michael Hutchinson. As the Leafs’ third string, turned second string and sometimes top goalie, Hutch has been clutch when he’s needed to be. He has a 2.42 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in eight games this season, which is better than average in the high-scoring North Division.
Hyman’s Price Goes Higher
The only bad thing about Zach Hyman’s career year is that it will cost Toronto a lot more to keep him. Hyman has found his way back to the top line, and as he does on every line he plays on, he makes it better. That is a tall order when you consider he was put with one of the top-scoring duos in the game. Despite being on a team of high-scoring players, who make a lot of money, Hyman has the most goals of any Leaf from February 27 to April 4 with eight. Hyman was the topic of discussion during the last Maple Leafs Lounge.
His contract is worth $2.25 million and expires at the end of this season. Expect the asking price to be at least double that in the free-agent market. Toronto’s cap situation is not getting any easier to handle.
Trade Deadline is Looming
Next week at this time, we will be in the midst of the trade deadline madness. Toronto has been tied to nearly every player rumoured to be on the trade block all season. Expect that to escalate all week as general managers around the league place their bets and decide if they are buyers or sellers.
That said, Toronto is still the best team in the North. Galchenyuk has solved the top-six forward need. There are no glaring issues on the defence. The goalie situation is still a concern due to the injures, but it sounds like Andersen may return 100%. Dubas has the luxury of finding the right deal and not scrambling to fill some holes.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.