Something has to give when the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Vancouver Canucks in the early evening tonight in British Columbia. Both teams come off games when they didn’t help their goalies much and lost by three goals. The Canucks lost to the New York Islanders by a score of 6-3, and the Maple Leafs lost to the Calgary Flames by a score of 5-2.
There’s some very good news if you’re a Maple Leafs’ fan. Given his history with concussions and the fact that he had only played a few games in his previous two seasons before coming to Toronto, the hit Ondrej Kase absorbed in Calgary was a time for anxiety. However, he was back practicing and it looks as if he’ll play tonight.
That, for me, is the best news of the day. It’s also nice to see Wayne Simmonds return to the team, although being a father myself I’m happier for the birth of his second child. Finally, Joseph Woll signed a three-year contract with the team yesterday. In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll share this news and more.
Item One: Ondrej Kase Will Likely Play Tonight
As noted above, Kase’s upper-body injury was scarier than it looked and he practiced on Friday. That means he’ll probably be ready to return to the ice later today. The last I had heard, there was no word on how Kase felt after being nearly destroyed by the Flames 6-foot-6, 235-pound defenseman Nikita Zadorov.
Kase stayed out of the remainder of Thursday’s game as a precaution, but he’s been cleared to play against the Canucks. The metaphor used to describe him is a Swiss Army Knife because he has so many uses and can slot into multiple roles for the team. He’s been a great addition to the roster.
Tonight, Kase will likely line up in his regular third-line role. On the season, he’s scored eight goals and added nine assists (for 17 points) in the 36 games he’s played.
Item Two: Wayne Simmonds Rejoins the Team Tonight
After taking a game off against the Flames to stay with his partner in Toronto for the birth of their second child, Simmonds will draw into the lineup tonight. With Simmonds out, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe got creative and skated 11 forwards with seven defensemen against the Flames.
Interestingly, Travis Dermott even played on the wing during the third period in Calgary. For tonight, Keefe’s team plans to have 12 forwards and six defensemen in the lineup, so fans can infer that Simmonds will be back in the lineup.
Item Three: Petr Mrazek Will Be in Goal Tonight
It’s been good to have Petr Mrazek back from his injuries. He’ll start tonight against the Canucks. The timing is good because, after starting the season on fire, starting goalie Jack Campbell has looked human over his past eight games or so. Over those games, Campbell’s numbers have ballooned to a goals-against-average of 4.11.
Mrazek, on the other hand, has started to shine. In his last game, he saved 28 shots to help his team beat the Carolina Hurricanes by a score of 4-3. In fact, Mrazek has won his past four games; and, after that run of wins, his record is now 6-2-0 on the season.
He’s also lowered his goals-against average to 2.93 and jumped his save percentage to .902 in his eight games. Since January 22, the 29-year-old Mrazek has gone 4-0-0, with a goals-against-average of 2.32, and a save percentage of .921.
Item Four: Joseph Woll Signs a Three-Year Contract Extension
On Thursday, the Maple Leafs signed goalie Joseph Woll to a three-year contract extension. The specifics are that the first year of the contract is a two-year deal and the last two years are one-way deals. The average annual value of the contract is $766,666 per season.
Although Woll has played most of the 2021-22 season in the minors, when he was needed by the big club he surprised most fans with his level of success and confidence. He’s had four NHL starts and carries a record of 3-1-0, a goals-against-average of 2.76, and a save percentage of .911. He also recorded a shutout. [What I love about the photo above is Woll’s eyes, he’s totally concentrating.]
Currently, Woll’s the third goalie on the Maple Leafs’ depth chart. However, I have to wonder if the Maple Leafs were quicker to sign him given Campbell’s recent woes; or, whether it was the other way. As Maple Leafs’ fans know, Campbell is set to become a UFA this offseason; and, there’s been a concern that his great play might have priced him out of the team’s ability to re-sign him.
Nothing ever seems cut-and-dry, does it?
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Maple Leafs’ fans should probably not miss the first period of this game. Given the Canucks’ propensity to fall behind early and what should be the Maple Leafs’ general sullen attitude about atoning for the mistakes that led to their loss against the Flames, the first period could start quickly.
It’s really hard to say how each team will show up tonight. I’m looking for either a high-scoring or a low-scoring game. Thatcher Demko is a great young goalie and could put the halts to any desire by the Maple Leafs to run away with the game; however, Quinn Hughes is out of the Canucks’ lineup.
It could be a good game. By the way, just over a year ago – February 4, 2021 – Jason Spezza recorded his eighth career hat trick against the Canucks. Wouldn’t a repeat performance be nice?
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