Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Matthews, Campbell, Nylander & Mikheyev

Last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Philadelphia Flyers by a 5-2 score. There were two key positives from the Maple Leafs’ victory. First, goalie Jack Campbell had a really solid game, making 37 saves for the win. 

Second, with Auston Matthews out for a second consecutive game, the offense didn’t skip a beat. William Nylander kept building on his career-best scoring with his 32nd goal of the season. The team also got secondary scoring from Timothy Liljegren, Jason Spezza, David Kampf, and Ilya Mikheyev.

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It was the team’s fourth win in a row. Campbell picked up his 30th win of the season. The Maple Leafs extended their franchise’s best record to 51-20-6 and their best season point total to 108. Finally, unless the wheels fall off completely, the team is now eight points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning and nine points ahead of the Boston Bruins.

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In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll look at some of the events of the game and their impact on the players and the remainder of the season. Only five games remain in the franchise’s best season ever.

Item One: Jack Campbell Post Second Solid Game in a Row

Oddly, the tables were turned on the Maple Leafs. Usually the Blue and White outshoot their opponents. Last night, the Flyers, a team not known for taking a lot of shots, actually had a 39-28 shot advantage for the game. Still, it was not a tough win for the team. They didn’t trail at any time during the game.

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

Regardless, Campbell made the saves he needed to make. It was the highest number of saves he’s made in a game since February 17, when he stopped 45 shots against the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

Related: Remembering Borje Salming: “King” of Maple Leafs’ Defensemen

Just as quickly as Campbell’s season turned south, it’s turned around. Perhaps, as Maple Leafs’ Sheldon Keefe noted recently, it’s because Campbell is 100 percent healthy. The result is positive. Campbell has a 7-0-1 record over his last eight starts. The regular season finally seems to be under control. Now, there’s one small step left for the former backup goalie; he must win a few playoff series.

Item Two: Ilya Mikheyev Registered a Multiple-Point Game

Ilya Mikheyev scored a goal and added an assist in the 5-2 win over the Flyers. Those two points raised his season’s point total to 28 (18 goals and 10 assists). Those 18 goals are 10 more than he scored in his rookie season of 2019-20. That’s solid secondary scoring.

Ilya Mikheyev Toronto Maple Leafs
Ilya Mikheyev, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Mikheyev becomes a UFA at the end of the season, and for sure the team will want to sign him. The prevailing wisdom is that they won’t be able to; however, he’s become one of the best penalty killers – especially teamed with speedy partner Pierre Engvall. The two of them give the team something on special teams that hasn’t been present in the time I’ve covered the team.

Item Three: William Nylander Extends His Career-Best Statistics

William Nylander is having his career-best season. Against the Flyers, he assisted on Timothy Liljegren‘s fifth goal of the season early during the second period to start the team’s scoring. He then scored with the man advantage to give the Maple Leafs a 2-1 lead.

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Those two points pushed Nylander’s point-scoring streak to five games (with four goals and four assists in those games). That stretch also includes multiple points in three of his last four games. With the two points, Nylander has now had two-point games in three of his last four.

William Nylander Toronto Maple Leafs
William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It’s been a good season for the 25-year-old winger. He’s now scored 32 goals and added 44 assists (for  76 points) in 76 games played. The goal beat his old season’s record of 31 set in 2019-20 and put him at a point-a-game pace for the season. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The team is off on what might be its toughest three-game road trip of the season. They fly to Florida to play the Lightning on Thursday and the Florida Panthers on Saturday. Finally, the team has a quick turnaround and heads into Washington to play the Capitals.

It won’t be an easy trip, made especially tough because the team has successful games against these teams during their last meetings. They beat the Lighting and the Capitals in regulation and lost a big lead falling to Florida in overtime. You’ve got to believe these teams know Toronto is coming to town.

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Matthews’ undisclosed injury is just that – undisclosed. In speaking to the media prior to the Flyers game, head coach Sheldon Keefe noted that Matthews was “feeling better, but we still want to give him time.” (from “Auston Matthews to miss second straight Leafs game with undisclosed injury,” Mark Zwolinski, Toronto Star, 19/04/2022).

Matthews also missed the team’s win over the New York Islanders on Sunday. However, he did skate with other injured Maple Leafs’ players yesterday morning. He will also travel with the team on the three-game road trip. 

Auston Matthews
Auston Matthews is now in a Lids Partnership (Image courtesy of Lids)

Coach Keefe noted that the team would not rush its best player. All he would say is that Matthews had a “minor issue;” however, when asked to elaborate, Keefe wouldn’t divulge anything further. 

While it would be nice to see Matthews hit 60, that isn’t the end of the Maple Leafs’ world.

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