In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll look at how different players did during the Maple Leafs 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Sunday night. I’ll also comment about how the game might impact the Maple Leafs and the players as the team moves forward. The Maple Leafs have a 6-3-1 record in their last 10 games and remain on top of the NHL’s North Division.
More specifically, I’ll look at what I believe is the stellar play of Zach Hyman and jump his name into the mix for consideration for the Selke Trophy this season. He’s played amazingly well and is establishing himself as one of the team’s core players.
Item One: Michael Hutchinson Has Solid Game Against the Flames
Could this game have been Michael Hutchinson’s best of the season? He certainly did his part by keeping his team in the game. He made 32 saves, and the Maple Leafs came out on fire during Sunday’s third period to wrestle a 4-2 game from the Flames. His save percentage on the night was .941, which is strong. Two goals during the last half of the first period were all that Calgary could muster, and in the end those weren’t enough.
The 31-year-old Hutchinson’s win now improves his record on the season to 4-2-1 and his record over the Flames to 2-1-0. The often-critiqued and prior to this season difficult-to-fully-trust goalie has been good for the team this season, with a goals-against-average of 2.42 and a save percentage of .919 in the eight games he’s played.
Tonight it’s already reported that Jack Campbell will start in goal for the Maple Leafs. Given Hutchinson’s solid play on the season, will he be picked up in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft? It seems he’s earned another contract for next year from some team.
Item Two: Auston Matthews Registers Two Points in Sunday’s Win
Auston Matthews picked up two points in the 4-2 win over Calgary. His first point came less than a minute into the game, when he set up Morgan Rielly’s quick first-period goal. Then Matthews scored to provide insurance in the middle of the third period. His season’s total now stands at 25 goals (which leads the NHL) and 19 assists.
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On the scoresheet, one would guess that Matthews might be fully-healed from the wrist injury. However, during a recent interview when he was asked how his wrist was, his answer was “better.” He didn’t say “back to normal” or “fully healed.” It’s always hard to read between the lines, but I’m guessing that Matthews gave the kind of answer that means “better, but not fully healed?”
As I say, the scoresheet suggests he isn’t bothered by the wrist. The 23-year-old Matthews has now scored eight points in his last six games and multiple-point games in three of his last five. He’s now up to 44 points and a plus-16 in 35 games on the season.
Item Three: Zach Hyman Is Becoming Part of the Maple Leafs Core
How well is Zach Hyman playing? Allow me to make two suggestions here. First, I suggest that Maple Leafs’ fans revise what’s been known as the team’s Core Four to include Hyman to make it a Core Five. Second, I want to fuel the fire for a conversation that promotes Hyman for the Selke Award as the NHL’s best defensive forward.
I have to admit that over the past week, readers of my posts have given me good ideas and good lines. First, one reader commented that they couldn’t imagine watching Hyman play for another team. It would make them crazy. Second, another regular reader whose insights I’ve come to appreciate suggested that no one has brought up Hyman’s name for the Selke but should. I totally agree and am carrying that thought forward here.
As Maple Leafs’ fans know, the Frank J. Selke Trophy is given to the forward “who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game” and is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Last season the Philadelphia Flyers’ Sean Couturier won the award. Interestingly, the article I read about Couturier called him the Flyers’ alpha dog. I’ve got to think that no one dominates the defensive ice in a more dogged way than Hyman.
In last night’s game, Hyman had the secondary assist on Matthews’ third-period goal. Maple Leafs’ fans always know the on-ice work ethic they are going to see from the 28-year-old Hyman, but he’s been really steady lately with his offense. He’s scored two goals and four assists during his last seven games.
Playing with Matthews and Mitch Marner on the top-line obviously agrees with him; however, I’m ambivalent about whether I’d like to see him stay on the top line or become a leader of his own third line. I suppose I would default to the choice that kept him on the ice most. The Toronto native how has scored 25 points in 36 games this season. He’s good!
Item Four: Alex Galchenyuk Scores His First Maple Leafs’ Goal
It was good to see Alex Galchenyuk score his first Maple Leafs’ goal on a pass from line-mate John Tavares later in the second period. It was his first goal in his eight Maple Leafs’ games; and, to my eyes, it’s been a long time coming. I think he’s played well, and I’ve been impressed with how big he plays and his on-ice speed. He’s become a regular on the team’s second line with Tavares and William Nylander (who also had two assists last night).
Joe Thornton, the team’s resident Yoda, noted: “A big goal by Alex. Got us back in the game. It’s huge for his confidence. He’s a young player still.”
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
I’m watching the Tavares-Nylander-Galchenyuk line for tonight’s game. They contributed well to the game last night and I think are getting better each game. Tavares scored a goal and an assist and has now reached the 30-point plateau. As I noted, Galchenyuk scored his first as a Maple Leafs’ player. And Nylander also had two assists in the game.
Five points from any top line is a good night, but I’m looking for something even better.
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). 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