What a good road trip for the Toronto Maple Leafs; the team left home with a record of 13-13-4 and came home 16-14-4 after playing four good teams and winning three of their four games. On Saturday night, the team beat the Edmonton Oilers by a score of 4-1.
What made that game most interesting is that the majority of the team’s scoring was secondary scoring. They had goals from Ilya Mikheyev, Alexander Kerfoot, and Frederik Gauthier; and, by the way, Mitch Marner pitched in, as well. The team’s schedule gets noticeably easier over the next while and, if the team is going to make a serious run at the playoffs, they probably need to get on a really successful streak. I’m believing they will.
In the wake of this successful road trip, in this post I want to keep Maple Leafs fans up-to-date on the latest news from the team, as well as rumors that are popping up.
Item One: Mikheyev Scores Against the Edmonton
Mikheyev hasn’t been racking up huge minutes on the ice, and he’s been on a bit of a scoring drought of late. However, he scored his first goal in almost two months (Oct. 25 against the San Jose Sharks) against the Edmonton Oilers. That goal was also the game-winner, which was his first NHL game-winning goal. He now has four goals and 13 assists for 17 points this season.
Item Two: Engvall Is Playing Valuable Minutes and Producing
Pierre Engvall scored two assists in the 4-1 win against Edmonton. His ice time is rising; and, against the Oilers, he skated almost 14 minutes. Because he was one of Sheldon Keefe’s young Toronto Marlies’ players, Keefe undoubtedly knows the skills Engvall brings, so it’s not like he needs to earn Keefe’s trust. I’m pleased he’s getting a chance with the Maple Leafs, and I thought he looked good even in training camp. He’s big, has a great fitness level, and can really skate.
Item Three: Kerfoot Snaps a 3-Game Scoreless Drought
I’m still not sure whether Alexander Kerfoot’s a stronger offensive or defensive player. However, I’m convinced he’s a strong player. He was great in the game against the Oilers and scored his first goal since Nov. 5 when he scored against the Los Angeles Kings.
I’m also not sure if Keefe really has settled where he believes Kerfoot’s most valuable on the team because he seems to play the Harvard grad on a number of different line combinations. He seems to work well with Mikheyev and Engvall, and if that line stays together, I would call it the Smart Line because I think all three have great on-ice intelligence. But, then I think Kerfoot’s smart enough to work well with any Maple Leafs unit. I’ve become a big fan this season.
Item Four: Andersen, Once Again – Stellar!
I cannot recall Frederik Andersen having a better run than he’s had over the past few games – perhaps since the ill-fated Philadelphia game when the Flyers scored five goals in the last 10 minutes of the third period. Andersen was on his game against the Oilers and allowed just one goal on 37 shots.
Also, congratulations to him for picking up NHL win number 200. He is officially the fastest European goalie to win that many games and the fourth-quickest NHL player of all time to reach that plateau.
I hope Maple Leafs fans recognize and appreciate what an elite goalie the team has in Andersen. You have to wonder where this team might be without him. His record is now 16-8-3 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.
Item Five: Barrie’s Injury Might Not Be That Bad
Tyson Barrie blocked a shot off his leg and it looked for a moment that he was badly injured. Thankfully, sometimes pain is different than damage, and Barrie’s X-rays came back negative. As a result, it looks as if the star defenseman won’t be sidelined long with an ankle injury. The worst-case scenario suggests he shouldn’t be out many games.
Item Six: What Happens Now to Sandin?
Word was out that the Maple Leafs would loan prospect Rasmus Sandin to Sweden for the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship over the holidays, but Barrie’s injury might make the organization reconsider that move. Sandin could be promoted to the Maple Leafs if Barrie isn’t ready to return to the lineup quickly.
Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported that “Because of this injury now, they’re going to have to revisit where they’re at with Sandin.” Sandin has played well both with the Maple Leafs and with the Marlies, and he’s scored 2 goals and 10 assists in 18 games for the Maple Leafs AHL affiliate.
Item Seven: Is the Team Ready to Trade Kapanen?
In a recent 31 Thoughts article, Elliotte Friedman reported that he didn’t think the Maple Leafs would do much this season about a back-up goalie; however, he noted that he believes there are suitors out there for young star Kasperi Kapanen should general manager Kyle Dubas believe the team needs help now.
The funny thing about Kapanen, he’s more of a depth player than a leader with the Maple Leafs; however, there’s a chance another team would see him as a building block. He’s that good. Regardless of the speculation, I believe the 23-year-old, two-way player is too valuable for the Maple Leafs to move. He certainly plays the kind of game both Dubas and Keefe want to see the team play. I think they’d be crazy (or desperate) to trade him and don’t think that will happen soon.
Item Eight: No Contract Talk for Dermott
Sportsnet’s Luke Fox has reported that the Maple Leafs have not begun to talk with young defenseman Travis Dermott about a contract extension. That’s no surprise really because the Dermott is still working back into the lineup after missing much of this season healing from shoulder surgery. In fact, he’s only getting about 15 minutes of ice time per game, which is lots less than he’s played over his first two seasons.
Dermott’s reaction to a new contract? He has “a million other things to worry about.” He’s a smart young man.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
For all the angst in Toronto about the Maple Leafs, what must Tampa Bay Lightning fans be feeling about their team? A look at the Eastern Conference standings shows the Maple Leafs ahead of the Lightning by a point – albeit the Florida-based team has a few games in-hand.
This is one of the easiest weeks the team has had in terms of rest. They play the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday and then at the New York Rangers on Friday before coming home for a back-to-back against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night. Will this week see the first win for a Maple Leafs’ backup goalie this season? There’s a good chance.
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