Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Kerfoot, Muzzin, Matthews & Mikheyev

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, we’ll take a look at the most recent news emerging from the team as it prepares to play the New Jersey Devils tonight on home ice. Second, we’ll review the team’s progression against other teams in their Division throughout the past month.

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As well, we’ll try to help Maple Leafs’ fans catch up with what’s happening on the team over the big picture of the season by looking at the team leaders on the scoresheet. We’ll also share the news that Jake Muzzin’s concussion issues are not going away easily and that he’ll be held out of these last two games prior to the All-Star Break.

Item One: The Team’s Movement After these January Games

The Maple Leafs have just one game left in what has been a strange January and two games left before the All-Star Break that both Auston Matthews and Jack Campbell will attend. Both these games are part of a rare home-and-home, back-to-back against the New Jersey Devils. The game tonight will be only the 11th game the team has played this month. After tonight, the season will be halfway over and the team will have completed its 41st game.  

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Despite their COVID-19 issues, injuries, canceled games, restrictions on fans, as well as the team’s defensive and goaltending issues, the Maple Leafs have compiled a respectable 7-2-1 record to this point of the month. In those 10 games, they’ve scored 42 goals, or 4.20 a game; and, they have given up 29 goals, or 2.9 per game. 

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The team started the month of January in third place in the Atlantic Division, with 44 points, two less than the Florida Panthers and with a game in hand, and five points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning with three games in hand. At that point, the Detroit Red Wings were in fourth place nine points back of the Maple Leafs. The Boston Bruins were a distant 12 points behind in fifth place, but with four games in hand.  

The Maple Leafs now sit 10 points back of Florida, and seven behind Tampa Bay with five games in hand over both of them. The Bruins meanwhile have passed the Red Wings and moved into fourth place, four points behind the Maple Leafs with two more games played.  

Item Two: Highest Scoring Maple Leafs in January

The top-scoring Maple Leafs’ player in the 10 games played in January has been none other than Alex Kerfoot. He only scored two goals, but he added 11 assists (for 13 points). Second in points is Auston Matthews (with 12 points), followed by Morgan Rielly (with 10 points). Mitch Marner and William Nylander are tied for fourth with nine points in the 10 January games played. However, Marner’s only played seven games. Rounding out the top-five scorers are Michael Bunting and John Tavares with eight points. Ilya Mikheyev was sixth with seven points.  

Alex Kerfoot Toronto Maple Leafs
Alex Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Although Kerfoot being the top point-getter for the month might be a bit of a surprise, so too might the top goal-scorer for the month. That would be Mikheyev, who leads with six goals scored. Tied for second with five goals each is Matthews, Bunting, and Marner. John Tavares and Nylander have four goals each. 

Item Three: Jake Muzzin’s Concussion Symptoms Are Lingering

Jake Muzzin’s concussion isn’t going away easily and the news is that he won’t play either tonight or Tuesday against the Devils. Muzzin didn’t take part in the morning skate today after getting back on the ice for a few sessions last week.

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Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe said that the decision was made that the defenseman should take a bit of a step backward to take advantage of the All-Star break before he ramps things up again. 

Jake Muzzin Toronto Maple Leafs
Jake Muzzin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That move makes sense. It would be wise for the Maple Leafs to be especially cautious with Muzzin. The team’s postseason plans would be hugely impacted if he weren’t able to play. Sitting him out the next two games would give him the rest of next week to not only be sure he’s over the concussion but to give himself time to get his body back into game shape.  

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The Devils enter tonight’s game struggling badly and have lost four games in a row and seven of their last eight games. They sit last in the Metropolitan Division with a 15-23-5 record and 35 points; and, they are 2-8 over their past 10 games. 

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On paper, the game should be the Maple Leafs. But the Devils can score goals and are averaging 2.81 per game. However, like the Maple Leafs’ last competition the Detroit Red Wings, the Devils have a hard time keeping the puck out of their own net and give up an average of 3.49 per game. 

Although we can’t see the Maple Leafs losing focus early in this game as they did against the Red Wings; however, who knows what can happen? It will be good to see if Jack Campbell can shut the door on the Devils.

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]