The Toronto Maple Leafs accomplished two key goals in last night’s 3-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings. First, they captured the home-ice advantage for the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Second, Auston Matthews – who had been in a bit of a scoring funk – potted his 59th and his 60th goals on the season.
Those two goals made him the first NHL player in 10 seasons to hit the 60-goal mark. It also probably means that Maple Leafs’ fans won’t see Matthews again during the regular season. However, there’s still one game left against the Boston Bruins on Friday night and Mitch Marner needs three points to hit the century mark; and, that would be worth seeing.
In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll look at Matthews’ successful accomplishment of his goal. I’ll also comment upon a player who was hidden outside the focus of the Matthews hoopla. That’s goalie Jack Campbell, who has quietly pulled his game together at the right time.
Finally, I’ll share some of the other news emerging from the Red Wings’ game and comment on the milestones another player has reached. I’ll specifically focus on John Tavares.
Item One: Matthews Extends Maple Leafs’ Single-Season Goal Record
Auston Matthews scored two goals in last night’s game to hit the 60-goal mark and to all but wrap up the Rocket Richard Trophy race. Leon Draisaitl has two games remaining and sits at 55 goals, so it’s possible. But it’s also a bit unlikely because the Edmonton Oilers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road last night to wrap up second place in the Pacific Division. Draisaitl, like Matthews, might get some rest.
Last night’s game was all about Matthews. The Maple Leafs’ goal-scoring machine had not added to his 58 goals for just under three weeks. He’d last scored on April 9. As a result, what seemed like a foregone conclusion turned out to be a bit more dramatic than it at first seemed.
Finally, Matthews snapped his goal-scoring drought and became the first player since Steven Stamkos (in 2011-12) to score 60 in a single season. Those two goals also pushed Matthews’ career-best point total to 106 points in 72 games on the season.
Item Two: John Tavares: Scores in victory
Not to be forgotten, Maple Leafs’ captain John Tavares scored his 27th goal of the season on a great pass from William Nylander to give his team some breathing room in the third period.
Like Matthews, Tavares had been on a bit of a scoring drought. It was his first goal after eight games of zilch. However, also like Matthews, it wasn’t as if he was playing poorly. He’d registered six assists over those games. Heading into the last game of the season, the 31-year-old Tavares has scored 27 goals and 49 assists (for 76 points) in his 79 games played.
Item Three: Jack Campbell Is on a 10-Game Streak
Without any of the hoopla that Matthews’ quest rightfully created, Maple Leafs’ starting goalie Jack Campbell has now put together a string of 10 straight starts without a loss in regulation. Last night, he stopped every shot the Red Wings put on the net and logged his fifth shutout of the 2021-22 regular season.
The 30-year-old Campbell now has improved his season’s record to 31-9-6 and has posted a save percentage of .914 and a goals-against-average of 2.64. It wasn’t the busiest game Campbell has had; but, he still had to stop what came, and he did so successfully.
There’s been a bit of angst about Campbell’s less than a spectacular season; still, in the end, he’s put up some pretty good numbers. Last night was the third game in his last four where he’s held the opposition to two goals or fewer.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
The Maple Leafs have one game remaining, and it’s against arch-rival Boston. On Friday, the Bruins come to town. Although it looks as if the Maple Leafs’ first-round opponent will be the Tampa Bay Lightning, it’s possible the Bruins might be heading to Scotiabank Arena when the playoffs start. The Bruins need to win out; and, the Lightning have to lose both games in regulation.
Whichever team comes, it’s all well and good. If they’re going to make a run at the Cup, the Maple Leafs need to beat the good teams and there are four good ones in the Atlantic Division. From my perspective, you might as well play the great teams right off the bat.
Soon the fun starts.
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