Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Matthews, Mrazek, Campbell & Giordano

The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins last night by a score of 6-4. The score flattered the Bruins. The Maple Leafs put together two strong periods and then a very intelligent third period after the team was reduced to four defensemen. 

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Even with a shortened roster, the Maple Leafs held on to win. The Bruins came back, but couldn’t finish the deal. In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll look at some of the events of the game and discuss their implications going forward.

Item One: Maybe this Maple Leafs’ Team Is Better Than We Thought

For Boston, it was a look-in-the-mirror game. The Maple Leafs went up 6-1 after two strong periods. They had taken it to the Bruins for two periods. They then played smart hockey and didn’t allow the Bruins to come all the way back. It was a good game for the Blue and White.

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In fact, the Maple Leafs got the Bruins off their game entirely. They flustered them into making a series a string of retaliatory hits and penalties. Brad Marchand was given a 10-minute misconduct penalty after the second period for “chirping” (screaming and yelling) at the referee.

Sheldon Keefe Toronto Maple Leafs
Sheldon Keefe, has the Toronto Maple Leafs playing well (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

After the game, from Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe’s perspective, he “thought we didn’t give them a lot. We managed a couple of the strong pushes that they had; but, otherwise, (it was) a real patient game and we took advantage of the opportunities that we had.”

From Bruins’ head coach Bruce Cassidy’s perspective, the Bruins weren’t sharp early and didn’t seem to be ready for Matthews and his speedy teammates. 

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Cassidy noted, “Give them (the Maple Leafs) credit for starting on time and that’s where the game got away from us and we chased it – tough team to chase the game against.”

Item Two: Auston Matthews Extends His NHL-Leading Goal Total

Stranger things happen, but it looks as if Auston Matthews will be the first NHL player to reach the 50-goal mark. Matthews came into the game tied with the Edmonton Oiler’s Leon Draisaitl for the league lead with a total of 48 goals. He leaves the game only a single goal away from reaching the 50-goal mark. The 24-year-old Matthews now has 49 goals and 36 assists (for 85 points) in 61 games this season.

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Coach Keefe shared that he believes Matthews won’t be distracted by the scoring race as the playoffs approach. “He’s right there, obviously. If I know Auston, he’s just going to continue to play and not get too focused on anything else. He’s too good for the chances and the goals not to continue to come.”

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

In last night’s game, Matthews also added an assist in the 6-4 win over the Bruins. The assist came during the second period when he set up Mitch Marner’s 28th goal of the season. Not long after, Marner returned the favor by assisting Matthews as he ripped a shot past Bruins’ goalie Jeremy Swayman.

By the way, Swayman has been great in the net for the Bruins but saw his goals-against average and save percentage take a hit. He began the game with a 19-8-3 record this season, a 2.09 goals-against average, and a .925 save percentage. The 23-year-old rookie goalie finished the game with a 19-9-3 record, a 2.24 goals-against average, and a .920 save percentage. Still great.

Item Three: The Maple Leafs’ Injury Situation Just Got Tougher

Petr Mrazek, who had just started to play well, sustained yet another groin injury during last night’s game. He missed the rest of the game and could miss much longer. Although it’s a few games away, it looks like starting goalie Jack Campbell (who had a rib injury himself) might be able to jump into game action soon. 

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Until then, the Maple Leafs only have rookies (and veteran Micheal Hutchinson) to jump in. The team might be forced to go to rookie goalie Erik Kallgren for the short term. It has taken Campbell several weeks to recover from his rib injury, so who knows?

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

The injury situation for the defensive corps is also up in the air. After the trade deadline, the Maple Leafs’ blue-line depth is right where you want it to be. Now there are two more defensemen down after Ilya Lyubushkin and Justin Holl were injured during the game. That put the Maple Leafs down four defensemen for more than half the game. 

Item Four: Mark Giordano Came to the Team When Needed

Fortunately, Mark Giordano came to the team at the trade deadline from the Seattle Kraken in exchange for three draft picks. He’ll pick up some slack. Holl was injured and didn’t return after he was hit by a shot in the helmet in front of the Leafs’ net. As well, Lyubushkin was hit full-on by a punch by the Bruins’ Taylor Hall and did not come back. 

If ever there was a trade that circumstances show was meant to be, that might be bringing Giordano into the team. He’s played well and now will be relied on to play more minutes.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The team has two areas of injury to cover right now. First, who will play in goal? Will Campbell be a be able to return? Will the team rely on rookies?

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Second, how will the defense line up? Already Jake Muzzin and Rasmus Sandin are injured and in recovery. How will the team replace these defensemen? Will Toronto Marlies come up to the NHL?

Stay tuned for Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets.