The Toronto Maple Leafs outplayed the Calgary Flames much of the game last night and a combination of bad luck and wounded goalies brought them down. At game’s end, the Maple Leafs had lost to a hard-working Flames squad to the tune of 4-3.
It was a tough game for the Maple Leafs, who got a boost by the return of Wayne Simmonds to the lineup after the tough-as-nails winger had missed 18 games with a broken wrist. Alex Galchenyuk, who was the third overall choice of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens but whose game has suffered recently and is now with his seventh NHL team, made his first start with the Maple Leafs. As expected, he partnered on the team’s second line with John Tavares and William Nylander. None of the three scored a point Friday night.
In this post, I want to comment on both last night’s game and the struggle the team has had with its goalies over the past few weeks. From what I’ve seen, the team hasn’t played all that poorly; however, the goalie play – and I’m chalking it up to injuries – has not been up to speed recently. The Maple Leafs always seem to be playing from behind, and that isn’t a recipe for success in the NHL.
Item Two: Frederik Andersen Struggles in Loss to Flames
From his interview with the media after the game, it was interesting to see how frustrated and even confused Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe was. He just didn’t seem to have the words to explain the outcome of the game except that it was “tough luck,” which was a phrase he repeated, and unfortunate bounces. He was sure that his team didn’t give up many chances; instead, odd things spelled disaster – such as a puck bouncing off a player past the goalie. Even when the team fought back to tie the game, it seemed strange things just kept happening.
Chief among those who suffered was injured goalie Frederik Andersen, who gave up four goals on only 18 shots as the Maple Leafs lost to the Flames 4-3. Andersen admitted on Thursday that he was still suffering from his lower-body issue, and his play also suggests that he’s not up to his healthy standards.
Related: Bobby Orr’s Landmark Season
Simply stated, the 31-year-old Andersen had a tough night. He gave up three goals in the first period alone and has now lost three straight games and five of his last six. As a result of the poor statistical night, his 2020-21 record has now also dropped to 13-8-2 record with a goals-against-average of 2.91 and a save percentage of .897. If the season ended right now, those would be the worst statistics of his career.
Maple Leafs’ fans are simply used to Andersen consistently turning in quietly dominant performances. This season he’s been unable to do so; and, unless he’s lost his skills, that has to be blamed on the injury. He’s given up at least four goals in four of his past six games, which is simply the reason for his 1-5-0 record over that time frame.
Andersen even addressed that very issue after the game when he shared that “’No one’s losing their abilities overnight.” He added, ”It’s just a matter of putting it together. It starts with me looking inwards and do what I can do to play my best and help the team.”
Fortunately, Jack Campbell’s injury has healed and he’ll be back in net on Saturday evening in the team’s second game of the back-to-back.
Item Two: Jack Campbell Gets the Start Tonight Against the Flames
Jack Campbell will start in goal tonight when the Maple Leafs try to take the second game of their back-to-back series against the Flames. Campbell has had a “perfectly” tough season. That is, when he’s played, he has a perfect 3-0-0 record with a goals-against-average of 1.33 and a save percentage of .951. However, it seems that every game he plays – and wins – he ends up injured.
That situation is frustrating for both Campbell and the team. He’s only been able to play three games and, considering the Maple Leafs’ goalie injury situation, there’s a space he could grab if he were able to stay healthy. No one could ask for better performances, just more of them. He’s only given up four goals in the season – the same number Andersen gave up last night.
If Campbell could stay healthy, he’d have a chance to both grab the starter’s job and carry his team. The 29-year-old Campbell has been sidelined since Feb. 28 with a lower-body injury, but it will be good to see him start in goal tonight in a rematch with the Flames. Maple Leafs’ fans have to hope the team has at least one completely healed goalie.
Item Three: Michael Hutchinson Moved to the Taxi Squad
With Campbell’s injury healed and his ability to start tonight’s game, Michael Hutchinson was reassigned to the taxi squad yesterday. Hutchinson’s clearly the Maple Leafs’ third choice as a goalie. He’s played well except for his last game when he was pulled after giving up two goals in three shots against the Ottawa Senators last Sunday. Still, Hutchinson likely will see little NHL action unless Campbell or Andersen are too injured to play.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
I’m pretty sure the Maple Leafs’ trade of Mikko Lehtonen to the Columbus Blue Jackets had as much to do with general manager’s Kyle Dubas penchant to do well by the players he signs rather than going after 24-year-old goalie Veini Vehviläinen. Still, given the Maple Leafs’ current goalie situation, one has to wonder if Vehviläinen might see some action in the Maple Leafs’ net this season.
I’m only partly kidding. It’s been that kind of a season for Maple Leafs’ goalie injuries.
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