Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Nylander, Muzzin, Andersen & Sabourin

It was the third game of a three-game series, and the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Winnipeg Jets had each won a single game. But, in truth the Jets owed their victory to their reigning Vezina Trophy Award winning goalie Connor Hellebuyck who had held the fort against what should have been an overwhelming offensive Maple Leafs’ onslaught. He’s the main reason the Jets emerged from the first two games with three of a possible four points.

Counting the power of the offense in every aspect that doesn’t matter – given that the NHL relies on a goals-only scoring system – the Maple Leafs outshot the Jets 77-50 and also held a 142-83 edge in attempts on goal over the first two games of the three-game set.

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It was an entirely different game on Saturday night, and the Maple Leafs lost to the Jets 5-2. Although the game was tied during the third period, it probably shouldn’t have been. The Jets scored three goals in nine minutes during the third period; and, in retrospect, the eventual 5-2 score seems to reflect the game just about right.

And Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe outlined his team’s problems quite clearly when he admitted:

”We had a real hard time stringing together two passes. They present unique challenges. It’s as deep or the deepest forward group that we’ve seen in the division. We just didn’t have a good game. We weren’t sharp mentally; we weren’t sharp physically.”

In fact, looking at the won/lost column, the Maple Leafs have been struggling since early March. The team has lost four of its last five games. They’re still ahead in the North Division, but the Jets are catching up.

Sure, every team has funks during a season; however, given the way the season has started, not finishing first in the division would let a lot of the air out of the team’s tires.

How will the Maple Leafs fare in a quick turnaround against the Ottawa Senators tonight? As Maple Leafs’ fans wait to view the answer to that question, in this post I’ll try to keep fans up-to-date with news from the organization. I’ll also offer commentary on action that emerged from last night’s game.

Item One: William Nylander Is on a Scoring Streak

William Nylander extended his point-scoring streak to three-games when he scored a goal during the game. Funny, when the team was on a roll, Nylander struggled. Now that the team is struggling, Nylander’s on a roll. During his three-game point streak, he’s scored two goals and one assist.

William Nylander Toronto Maple Leafs
William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Nylander’s scoring probably shouldn’t be that much of a surprise really. Sometimes scorers like Nylander go on streaks similar to this one. In addition, since coach Keefe benched him about two weeks ago, the young Swede’s been on a tear. And that’s the second time that has happened in his career with Keefe. So, his coach knows how to push the right buttons – and did.

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The goal was Nylander’s 12th of the season and second in back-to-back games. In addition, he’s scored seven goals in his last nine games. I know that a number of Maple Leafs’ fans are no longer Nylander fans; however, from my perspective as a long-time teacher, sometimes it might take a while for things to click with some “students.” The fact that Nylander is only a 24-year-old prodigy suggests he might need some direct motivation from time-to-time. It’s no fun, but it happens.

Item Two: Jake Muzzin Scored a Goal and Looked the Part

First, I’m surprised that it took the Maple Leafs this long to score their first shorthanded goal. Second, I’m surprised that Jake Muzzin scored it. Ilya Mikheyev’s been knocking on the door for weeks now. I can recall at least four short-handed breakaways Mikheyev’s been a part of this season.

Jake Muzzin Toronto Maple Leafs
Jake Muzzin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

But this time it was Muzzin who jumped into the play and took a great pass from Mitch Marner to score the team’s first shorthanded goal of the season. Marner’s pass and Muzzin’s shot were perfect (and Muzzin looked in great goal-scoring form as well). It was Muzzin’s first point in his last seven games.

Item Three: Frederik Andersen’s Struggles Continue

It’s hard for me to read Frederik Andersen. He just doesn’t seem to be on his game this season in the same way he’s been in past seasons. In last night’s game he gave up five goals on 32 shots against the Jets. Perhaps it was exactly as coach Keefe noted – the team played awful in front of him and couldn’t even pass the puck to each other well.

Toronto Maple Leafs' Frederik Andersen
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Frederik Andersen (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Slocum)

Still, it seems on more nights than not, Andersen isn’t the best goalie in the building. I’m guessing coach Keefe will start a goalie other than Andersen in tonight’s game against the Senators; however, at this point I haven’t heard for certain.

Item Four: Calle Rosen Moved Up to the Maple Leafs’ Taxi Squad

Calle Rosen was moved up to the Maple Leafs’ taxi squad for the weekend games. He’s scored four goals and four assists (for eight points) in 12 games with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies this season.

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Item Five: Kenny Agostino Was an Emergency Recall for Saturday’s Game

Kenny Agostino was recalled from the team’s taxi squad under “emergency conditions” on Saturday. However, apparently what that amounted too was that he was just insurance during the warmups. Eventually, he was a healthy scratch for the actual game.

Item Six: Joseph Woll Jumps Back to the Maple Leafs’ Taxi Squad

Joseph Woll was moved back to the team’s taxi squad for Saturday’s games while Jack Campbell sat the game out. I had read there was a chance Campbell might dress as Andersen’s backup for Saturday’s game against the Jets, but Michael Hutchinson once again was Saturday’s backup. Campbell’s return for Sunday’s game against the Senators still seems up in the air.

Item Seven: Scott Sabourin Was Recalled from the Marlies

Scott Sabourin got off to a rousing start with the AHL’s Marlies in the one game he played there. He ran over the other team’s goalie; got into a fight; and was ejected from the game. By the way, it was his first shift.

Scott Sabourin Ottawa Senators
Scott Sabourin, when he was with the Ottawa Senators (Courtesy Ottawa Senators)

The 28-year-old Sabourin was recalled to the Maple Leafs’ taxi squad for Saturday. Is there any correlation between Sabourin’s rousing AHL start and his recall?

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

How things have changed in a couple of weeks. Not long ago the Maple Leafs were at the top of the entire NHL; now they’re fourth overall and falling.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Keefe: If Nylander’s Misunderstood, It’s on Him, Too

After the team’s game against the Senators in Ottawa tonight, they have a bit of a break. It might be perfect timing. Perhaps the team needs to take a deep breath and simply get a fresh start. Perhaps Wayne Simmonds needs to return.

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