The Toronto Maple Leafs – with Erik Kallgren in goal – lost to the Nashville Predators by a score of 6-3 last night. It was an honest loss, and on the night the better team won the game. Now the question comes: “What do the Maple Leafs do now that they’ve found out after Kallgren is human?”
With the New Jersey Devils next up on Wednesday night, does the team start the 25-year-old again or be thankful for the infusion of energy he brought to the team this past week and move on? Much of the team’s strategy has to rest on how Kallgren handles himself in his next game. If I were the Maple Leafs’ coaching staff, I’d be anxious to find out.
Related: Maple Leafs May Have Reason to Trade Matthews After 2021-22 Season
In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some of the events of the game. I’ll also look at the likelihood of Travis Dermott leaving the team via trade.
Item One: Erik Kallgren Is Human After All
It didn’t take me long to get on the Kallgren bandwagon, especially because – as I’ve admitted before often – I’m always up for a Cinderella story. The Predators rendered Kallgren’s play average last night when they scored five goals on 33 shots to win by a 6-3 score. Had to end.
Two things happened for Kallgren. First, luck wasn’t on his side. Second, his teammates didn’t do all the little things they had done to protect him.
As far as luck goes, a couple of the goals were simply not his fault. How could he have stopped a seeing-eye tip from six feet to the right of his net? As far as his team goes, they didn’t give him a lead. Kallgren looked strong enough for the first period but then slid into ordinary for the last two periods.
Related: 7 Cool Things About Auston Matthews
Still, Kallgren didn’t jump around in goal. He wasn’t herky-jerky like a marionette. But he was scored on from distance and both he and his teammates seemed to lose sight of pucks in close and couldn’t clear them from the crease.
Kallgren was going to lose sooner or later. After four games he looks mortal, and now what? Will Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe start him or not against the Devils? If so, how will he stand up? Maple Leafs fans will learn more about the team’s young goalie soon enough.
Item Two: Has Travis Dermott Played His Last Game in a Maple Leafs’ Uniform?
To listen to Elliotte Friedman last night on Hockey Night in Canada, Travis Dermott played his last game in a Toronto uniform. If you listen to Kelly Hrudy, another team is going to get a great young defenseman.
Because the Maple Leafs don’t play now until Wednesday and that’s after Monday’s trade deadline, if Dermott is moved he has indeed played his last game as a Maple Leafs’ player. In listening to Dermott talk, he isn’t anxious to leave Toronto but he’s also pragmatic about the possibility.
In a Sporstnet article published just after last night’s game, Luke Fox quoted Dermott as saying: “It was surreal being drafted by the Leafs and all this stuff leading up to this. But how many guys play their entire career in the same team?”
The Toronto native noted that he’ll never forget that the Maple Leafs actually drafted him and that he’ll appreciate that for what it was. “But if it’s in the next week or next 10 years, whenever I’m gone, I’ll definitely be looking back on it and reminisce on some good times.”
Related: Marie-Philip Poulin is Keeping the Spotlight on Women’s Hockey
If Dermott leaves, he’ll have scored a goal and added four assists (for five points) in 43 games on the season.
Item Three: Auston Matthews Hasn’t Forgotten How to Score
Auston Matthews started the game slowly, but came on quickly and scored his NHL-leading 46th goal on the season. He’s now five goals ahead of the Edmonton Oilers Leon Draisaitl and six ahead of the New York Rangers Chris Kreider.
Matthews also added an assist in last night’s 6-3 loss to the Predators. He had 10 shots on the net and hit a goal post two times. He’s going to be hard to catch and is pointing toward Rick Vaive’s Maple Leafs’ record of 54 goals, scored exactly 40 seasons ago in 1981–82. Vaive had three straight seasons of 50 goals or more with the team, scoring 51 goals in 1982–83 and adding 52 goals in 1983–84.
Matthews has now scored in six-straight games and has recorded nine goals and two assists (for 11 points in that six-game stretch). He’s also tied for fourth place overall in NHL scoring with 79 points (11 fewer than the Oilers Connor McDavid).
Item Four: Mitch Marner Ties His NHL Career-Best, Goal-Scoring Season
Mitch Marner should easily score another goal this season. When he does, it would set a new career-best for him with 27 goals. Last night his two goals (he added an assist) tied his career mark in goals of 26, and it took him only 53 games to do it. In the 2018-19 season, he hit 26 goals in 82 games.
Since he’s returned from COVID-19, Marner has been a dominant scorer. On the season, he’s scored 26 goals and added 42 assists (for 68 points).
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
In the Fox interview, Dermott spoke about the team and his friends on it. He noted: “I love this group. I mean, you come in every day and there’s such good energy all the way through the lineup. There’s not one guy that is bringing bad vibes and kind of hurting the squad.”
Dermott added, “Even when the media is hard on us and we’ve lost a couple, the guys always lean on each other. And I think that makes it almost better for us — that you have to lean on each other more because there is so much pressure from the outside.”
Related: Travis Dermott: Maple Leafs’ Star in the Making
His comments reminded me of what I don’t see about this team from the outside, and that’s the deep friendships and relationships that thrive – almost because of downturns in a season. I suppose that’s why players like Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton hang around for so long. The other players are solid friends and it’s tough to leave them.
Good luck to Dermott if, and wherever, he might land after this weekend. By the way, the link above is one of the very early posts I wrote about Dermott when I first started to cover the Maple Leafs.