Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Kase, Brodie, Marner, Mrazek & Campbell

On paper, tonight’s game pitting the Toronto Maple Leafs against the visiting Buffalo Sabres should be an easy win for the home team. The Maple Leafs seek their fourth win in a row and are coming off a 5-3 win over the playoff-bound Washington Capitals on Monday. In contrast, the Sabres are on a six-game losing streak coming off a 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars on Sunday.

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Funny, however, fans of both teams seem equally frustrated. The Sabres fans because their team is rebuilding and not winning and the Maple Leafs’ fans because, although their team might be winning, it isn’t playing well enough in the process. 

Item One: With Jake Muzzin Out, T.J. Brodie Getting Heave Minutes

T.J. Brodie has registered a goal and two assists (for three points) in his last seven games, which isn’t a ton of points; however, he’s playing heavier minutes than he’s played in a long time. Specifically, Brodie’s played more than 21 minutes in six of those seven games, with his busiest game being the 24:48 he logged during the win over the Minnesota Wild on February 24. 

TJ Brodie Toronto Maple Leafs
TJ Brodie, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There’s no doubt that Brodie will keep seeing plenty of ice time as long as Muzzin’s concussion keeps him on LTIR. Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe has used Muzzin’s injury as a way to change the defensive pairings and has partnered the suddenly high-scoring Justin Holl and Brodie together. Since the pairing began to play together, Holl has scored five points in his last two games. 

Item Two: Mitch Marner Named NHL’s First star for February

Mitch Marner has been on a goal-scoring and point-producing streak – probably the best of his career. His success hasn’t gone unnoticed. Yesterday, he was was named the NHL’s first star for February. During the month, his name hit the scoresheet in eight of the Maple Leafs’ 12 games. 

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Marner was tied for the NHL’s lead in goals with nine; he was alone in leading the league in assists with 14, and he led in points with 23. During the month, Marner skyrocketed up the NHL leaderboard. He started the month in 72nd place in point-scoring; however, he jumped all the way to 14th and now has 56 points in 44 games. 

Related: Mitch Marner Has Proved to Be Most Valuable of Maple Leafs’ Core Four

There’s little chance Marner can win the Art Ross Trophy race this season, is there? Still, that’s what we thought about Auston Matthews’ chances to win the Rocket Richard Trophy for goals scored in November. Who knows?

Item Three: Ondrej Kase Won’t Play Tonight

Ondrej Kase has been listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury, and the news is that today is not the day for him to play. Kase didn’t practice on Tuesday, and the 26-year-old Czech native is not expected to play tonight. It will be the second game in a row that he’s missed.

Ondrej Kase Toronto Maple Leafs
Ondrej Kase, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With Kase sitting, Nick Robertson will play on the fourth line with Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds. Kase’s always missed when he can’t play, and he has 23 points in the 44 games he’s played this season. He has a motor that won’t quit.

Item Four: Petr Mrazek Will Start Against the Sabres

I admit I keep guessing wrong about what Maple Leafs’ goalie will start. Tonight it will be Petr Mrazek in net against the Sabres. It will be Mrazek’s first back-to-back games on the season, which likely means he has a chance to grab the net if he continues to win. 

Petr Mrazek, Toronto Maple Leafs
Petr Mrazek, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

On the season, the 30-year-old Mrazek has a record of 9-4-0, a save percentage of .895, and a goals-against-average of 3.07. Over his last five games, he’s been 3-2-0, with a goals-against-average of 3.31, and a save percentage of .882. Not great, but he seems to be a battler.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Obviously, the Maple Leafs’ biggest challenge is to find stability in goal. Perhaps that’s why Mrazek’s getting the start and not Campbell. Coach Keefe has shared that he believes Campbell’s dealing with a “mental block,” and he must believe that Campbell needs some rest to clear his head.

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The Sabres often play the Maple Leafs tough, but if I had to make a guess I think John Tavares will lead his team to a win. That’s probably my heart talking, however. Still, he’s due for a breakout game. He’s been playing well – just not scoring goals.