On Tuesday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs met the only NHL club that was hotter over the past ten games than they were. The result was a 3-0 victory over the suddenly-cooled-down Nashville Predators.
Maple Leafs’ goalie Jack Campbell didn’t have to work exceedingly hard, but he stopped everything he had to for his third shutout of the season. For the Maple Leafs, the usual suspects Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner both potted a goal. In addition, the team got a surprise goal from defensive-minded David Kampf. Both Matthews and Kampf also added assists.
With this solid win, the team has now won four games in a row and has pushed its record to win 9-1 over its last 10 games and 11-5-1 on the season. As Maple Leafs’ fans continue to wring their hands over the team’s perceived lack of success, the team now has the third-most points in the Eastern Conference with 23. Only the Carolina Hurricanes (24 points) and the Florida Panthers (25 points) have more.
In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some of the players both in and beyond last night’s game.
Item One: David Kampf Has Surprised Us All with His Scoring
It’s no surprise that David Kampf played good defense with his partner Ondrej Kase. But it was a bit more of a surprise that Kampf scored two points in Tuesday’s win over the Predators. He scored a nice goal on a set up by third-line partner Kase and also assisted on Marner’s empty-net goal at the end of the game.
Although the Maple Leafs were outplaying the Predators for much of the game, the team took over during the final four minutes of the third period and moved the score from a tight 1-0 game to a more comfortable 3-0 win.
Kampf’s scoring has surged this season in comparison to last season. He’s scored two goals and four points during his last four games. Although the 26-year-old Kampf is one of those players whose defense makes him an incredibly important player for the team, he’s yet to score more than eight goals or more than 19 points in an NHL season. He’s on a pace for almost 15 goals this season.
Item Two: Auston Matthews Is Now a Point-a-Game Player
Auston Matthews is scoring again with frequency. In fact, on Tuesday night against the Predators, he could easily have had a hat trick. However, he settled for two points and a win. Those two points included a goal and assist, and the goal came at a very good time for the team.
Matthews started the scoring with his goal against a remarkably tough goalie in Juuse Saros before the first period was half over. Although the Maple Leafs, who controlled much of the game, were repeatedly frustrated by the Predator’s goalie, that goal staked them to a lead and was both important on the scoreboard and psychologically.
Honestly, although I was looking forward to the reunited line of Matthews and Marner, you couldn’t call their game earthshattering. Matthews’ power-play goal ironically came on a great pass from William Nylander who coach Keefe had noted a day earlier hadn’t been working that well with Matthews (and vice versa).
How good is Matthews as a player? Even his biggest fans can’t say he’s had a great beginning to his season. He’s played well but hasn’t been his dominating self. Still, the 24-year-old Arizona product has seven goals and seven assists in 14 games. He’s a point-a-game player even when he’s not at his best and his team is concentrating on playing defensive hockey.
Item Three: Except for Two Games, Has Anyone Scored on Jack Campbell?
With Matthews scoring an early goal, all the team needed was another shutout by their goalie to take home the win. That’s exactly what they got. After Matthews’ lightning-fast one-timer off a cross-ice assist from Nylander, Campbell carried the team the rest of the way. If Maple Leafs’ fans were worried about Campbell’s consistency, it would seem the worry is over. Campbell stopped all 24 shots he faced in Tuesday’s 3-0 win over the Predators.
Campbell’s game wasn’t what one would call dominant, but it was his third shutout of the season (all coming in November) and the second in his last three games. Is he consistent? He is.
Looking at his numbers more closely, Campbell has given up either one goal or zero goals in eight of his last 13 games (12 of them starts) this season. He’s given up only 22 goals on the season, including nine goals in two games (five against the Pittsburgh Penguins and four against the Los Angeles Kings).
In November, Campbell has put together a record of 6-1-0 with a goals-against-average of 1.14 and a save percentage of .963. On the season, he’s now carrying a goals-against-average of 1.68 and a save percentage of .943.
Item Four: Kyle Clifford Back with the Maple Leafs
In nothing else, Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas is incredibly loyal. Yesterday, he welcomed Kyle Clifford back into the Maple Leafs’ organization. The team traded future considerations to the St. Louis Blues for the physical forward. Clifford cleared waivers yesterday and will be heading to Canada and to a team he already knows.
Because the Maple Leafs didn’t claim him off waivers, it allows Clifford to be moved to the Toronto Marlies to get some reps to his game before he’s called up to the big club. Clifford will be on loan to the Marlies for now.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
On October 18, the Maple Leafs suffered one of their five losses on the season when the New York Rangers beat them 2-1 in overtime. Exactly a month later, the same two teams meet again.
Both the Rangers and the Maple Leafs will enter the game with four-game winning streaks. The Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens last night by a score of 3-2. Campbell gets another chance in the net.
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