Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors: Kallgren, Matthews, Marner & Abruzzese

​​The Toronto Maple Leafs lost to the Montreal Canadiens last night by a score of 4-2. The game was tied until late in the third period when the Canadiens’ Paul Byron broke a 2-2 tie with 2:28 left in the game. The Canadiens went on to score an empty-netter. 

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The team was also goalied one more time, this time by the Canadiens’ Jake Allen, who faced 51 shots and saved 49 of them. In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll look at some of the events of the game. I’ll also share some of the other news emerging from the organization.

Item One: Erik Kallgren Was Beaten Once Too Often

Erik Kallgren had a tough time in the net for the Maple Leafs last night. He made only 14 saves on 17 shots in the team’s 4-2 loss to the Canadiens. Because the Maple Leafs were able to throw tons of fire power at Canadiens’ goalie Jack Allen, it should have been an easy victory for the Maple Leafs. 

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

The loss was partly the fault of mental breakdowns on the ice – William Nylander made a huge gaff – and the fact that the Canadiens made the most of the few shots that they registered. Granted, thus far Kallgren has looked better when he’s had more action at his own end; yet, it should have been a win for the Blue and White. 

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It’s tough to fault Kallgren too much. It had to be tough to stay sharp. The first goal was on Nylander who let his man (David Savard) free to score on a perfect cross-ice pass Kallgren just couldn’t reach. Cole Caufield’s goal was on a power play. Finally, Paul Byron’s goal late in the third period was a good play on his part. He faked a pass and fired it through Kallgren for the game- winning goal.

Item Two: Auston Matthews Ties Career High in Goals

Auston Matthews scored his NHL-leading 47th goal of the season last night – at least it was the league’s best until the Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl’s hat trick also pushed his total to 47 as well. At the time of the goal – very early in the game (at 36 seconds) – it looked good for the Blue and White. That obviously changed.

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The goal was a lasar from the face-off circle, which last season would have been a  typical Matthews goal. This season, he seems to be scoring from more and different places on the ice.

Auston Matthews
Auston Matthews Lids Partnership (Image courtesy of Lids)

Matthews has now tied his NHL career-best for goals (and topped his career best with 81 points). Those bests were set during the 2019-20 season. The hot Matthews is now on an eight-game stretch where he’s scored 13 points.

Item Three: Mitch Marner Pushes His Own Scoring Streak to Four Games

Mitch Marner had two assists last night to push his own scoring streak to five games. He’s now on a five-game streak where he’s potted four goals and added five assists (for nine points). Unlike his first-line partner Matthews, he might not set personal bests this season because of injuries and missing games from COVID-19, however his 69 points is still great for the games that he’s played.

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Still, if Marner’s season is measured by his points per game, he’s in an elite group. He’s at 1.29 P/GP, which puts him up there with players such as the Minnesota Wild’s Kirill Kaprizov (1.29), the Calgary Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau (1.33), and the Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane (1.26). He would be in the NHL’s top five in scoring had he not missed so many games.

Item Four: Maple Leafs Sign Harvard’s Nick Abruzzese To Entry-level Contract

The Maple Leafs signed Nick Abruzzese to a two-year, entry-level contract yesterday. During the 59 games Abruzzese played in his  last two seasons with the Harvard Crimson, he scored 23 goals and added 54 assists in 59 games. Rumor is that the Maple Leafs might be saving a roster spot for him. If so, Maple Leafs’ fans might see him play this season.

Nick Abruzzese of Harvard University
Nick Abruzzese when he was at Harvard University (Gil Talbot/Harvard Athletics)

Abbruzzese was chosen during the fourth round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. He’s a 22-year-old center who is expected to have great potential. It will be interesting to see how the organization uses him this season and next.

Item Five: Ondrej Kase Is Not Doing Well with His Injury

Is there a chance that Ondrej Kase’s concussion would put him out of the Maple Leafs’ lineup indefinitely? He doesn’t seem to be recovering well from his latest concussion and will miss at least the next two games. The team’s medical staff will continue to assess his progress. 

The 26-year-old Kase’s history of head injuries means that the team’s staff will be exceedingly cautious in allowing him to return to the lineup. Kase’s latest injury occurred during a Nashville Predators game on March 19. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Things happen fast these days. After losing to the Canadiens, the Maple Leafs have flown home to meet the Florida Panthers tonight on home ice. It’s an important game, as all of them are these days, because the team is still battling for the top spot in the Atlantic Division.

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It will be interesting to see what happens to William Nylander. His defensive mistake allowed an easy goal and head coach Sheldon Keefe moved him to the bottom six. My guess is that Ilya Mikheyev will get the start on John Tavares’ second line. We’ll see how that plays out.