The Toronto Maple Leafs have taken a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens. Similar to Game 1, when Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner dominated play but didn’t score, neither player scored a goal; and, between the two, Marner had a single assist on the night. However, the team had a number of other players show up to lead the Maple Leafs to the Game 3 win. In this post, I’ll share the contributions of other members of the team.
Contributor #1: Jack Campbell
If the first three games are an indication of what the Maple Leafs have in goalie Jack Campbell, there should be celebrating in the Blue and White nation. Campbell has been strong all series long and in Game 3 allowed only one goal from Canadiens’ forward Nick Suzuki from the right circle toward the end of the second period.
Campbell played well in both previous games; however, Game 3 was his best game of the series. He stopped 28 shots and held the fort during a furious late rally by the Canadiens to keep the game from going into overtime. One-after-another, Campbell stopped Canadiens’ wannabe goal scorers Josh Anderson, Tomas Tatar, and Phillipe Danault. That was the game.
As his coach Sheldon Keefe noted, “It was a tough, tough period. They’re coming at us real hard. I’d like to see us relax and make a few more plays so we can settle the game down, but it’s a very important game. It’s a very important period.”
Keefe added, “I thought our guys battled hard, and of course our goalie was our best player.”
After the first three games, Campbell’s record is 2-1, with a goals-against-average of 1.35, and stellar save percentage of .951. There’s no word yet if the Maple Leafs will stick with Campbell on the back-to-back tonight or might start Frederik Andersen for the second game of tonight’s back-to-back.
Contributor #2: Morgan Rielly
After lots of talk about the possibility of youngster Rasmus Sandin emerging to take Morgan Rielly’s job, Rielly has seemed to find his mojo during the postseason. He’s playing as well as he’s played in a while and is having a strong series. In Monday’s 2-1 victory, Rielly scored the game-winning goal late in second period.
Rielly has faced recent critique for not firing the puck on net enough from the point during the power play, which allows the opponent’s defense to concentrate on stopping Matthews from the side. That said, Rielly seems to be shooting from a variety of other places on the ice.
Thus far during the series, the 27-year-old defenseman is off to a nice start. He’s fired 10 shots on net and has three points in three games. His goal, which beat Carey Price top shelf, came from the bottom of the right face-off circle.
The 27-year-old Rielly simply hasn’t looked like player he was three seasons ago when I first began to cover the Maple Leafs. And that’s odd because for the first time in his career he’s been paired with a legitimate top-pairing defensive partner in T.J. Brodie. However, the team has to be pleased with the added offense Rielly has recently offered.
Contributor #3: William Nylander
Has William Nylander turned a corner in his career? He just seems to keep scoring. He put in his third goal in three playoff games and is helping his Maple Leafs – a team that hasn’t won a playoff series since 2004 – take the lead in this battle of iconic Original Six teams.
Often Nylander carries a lot of his own offense or uses his quick hand-eye coordination to slap home a rebound; however, this goal came giftwrapped from newly-promoted center Alex Kerfoot, who jumped to the second line because Nick Foligno was out with an injury. Kerfoot’s offensive zone faceoff win came back to Nylander, who bounced a quick long-range wrist shot off Canadiens’ defenseman Ben Chiarot past Price.
Nylander finished the regular season on a roll, hitting the score sheet during 12 of his final 14 games. During the playoffs, he hasn’t stopped producing. The 25-year-old Swede has been amazing throughout the series and is a main reason why Toronto has begun to control the series.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Although the Maple Leafs only won on the score sheet (which matters most) by a single goal, the team put in a strong effort even with Foligno and John Tavares out of the lineup. The Matthews-Zach Hyman- Marner line again controlled the play and the Pierre Engvall-Ilya Mikheyev-Wayne Simmonds third line has looked strong during the past two games.
The word is that Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe called Foligno “fit to play,” although he wasn’t on the ice for Monday’s morning skate. However, he was in warmups and didn’t play during the game. Where that leaves him for tonight’s game is up-in-the-air.