Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Marner, Matthews, Campbell & Ritchie

Last night was one night when the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Core Four showed the extent to which their skill and power can overcome the team’s mistakes. After going down in the third period to the Seattle Kraken by a score of 4-3, Auston Matthews willed and skilled his team to a 6-4 win over a feisty 2021-22 expansion team. 

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Matthews was joined by line-mate Mitch Marner, who scored the go-ahead goal halfway through the third period. Also jumping onto the scoresheet were William Nylander and John Tavares, who each scored a goal and added an assist to help the Maple Leafs roar back to a win. 

Related: Maple Leafs’ Biggest Problem Is Not the Core Four

In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at the events of the game and comment upon where Maple Leafs’ players are now and could be headed into the future. I’ll also take a look at what’s next for the team and how Nick Ritchie’s doing with the Arizona Coyotes. 

Item One: Mitch Marner Extends His Eight-Game Point-Scoring Streak

Mitch Marner scored a goal and added an assist in the team’s 6-4 win over the Kraken last night. He’s now on an eight-game point streak where he’s averaging more than two points a game on that point-scoring streak. 

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

In those eight games, Marner’s scored six goals and added nine assists (for 17 points). He started the season slowly, but he’s now has rocketed over the point-a-game pace with 23 goals and 39 assists (for 62 points) in his 48 games on the season.

Item Two: Jack Campbell Wins Game, But Lets in Four Goals

Jack Campbell was the winning goalie last night, but he isn’t back to his form at the start of the season. His record in 40 games on the season is now 24-9-4 with a goals-against-average of 2.65 and save percentage of .914. In the end, his teammates rallied around him to carry him to the win. 

Related: Best NHL Goalies of the 1980s

Although Campbell obviously let in more goals that anyone would wish, his head coach Sheldon Keefe noted that the team didn’t help him that much. They were beat at their own net, didn’t box out, and didn’t block shots. However, he noted about Campbell that, “In the times when there were clear shots and our guys did do a good job around him, I thought he was really good in those areas. That is what we need from him.”

Keefe then added: “We have come to expect Jack to have the ability to make game-changing types of saves. He was doing that earlier. He will get back to that.”

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

By the way, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Andrei Vasilevskiy lost to the Winnipeg Jets by a score of 7-4 last night. Vasilevskiy allowed five goals in 31 shots for a save percentage of .839. In contrast, Campbell allowed four goals in 30 shots for a save percentage of .867. I’m not trying to make the point that either goalie was good, just that the 2021 Stanley Cup Conn Smythe Winner sometimes has bad nights as well.

Item Three: Auston Matthews Is Carrying This Team

It’s simply difficult to underestimate how important Matthews is to the Maple Leafs. His hat trick literally carried the team to its 6-4 win. It was as if he just wasn’t going to allow the team to lose. His second goal was just a beautiful move around the Kraken goalie to tuck it into the net far side.

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Matthews’ hat trick was the sixth of his career. He now seems to be running away with the Rocket Richard trophy race and leads the NHL with 43 goals. In second-place are Leon Draisaitl (from the Edmonton Oilers) and Chris Kreider (from the New York Rangers). Matthews also has totalled 75 points in 54 games to jump into fourth place in that category. Note that he missed a number of games at the start of the season with his hand injury. 

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Matthews is making a case for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player. In fact, he’s probably the leading candidate for the award. A surprising second would be New York Rangers’ goalie Igor Shesterkin, who’s simply played remarkably well. He owns a great save percentage of .942 save percentage and is the reason the Rangers are doing so well in the highly-competitive Metropolitan Division.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Up next for the team is a game against the Arizona Coyotes and former Maple Leafs’ player Nick Ritchie. For anyone on a Ritchie watch, Ritchie scored two goals and added an assist in last night’s Arizona Coyotes 9-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Ritchie now has three goals and two assists in five games with the Coyotes since he was moved from the Maple Leafs.

Related: Maple Leafs Mason Marchment: A Long Shot Worth Rooting For

Funny how a change of scenery can make a world of difference. Could this become a win-win situation for both teams?

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