Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Special Teams’ Revival, Campbell & Rielly

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, we’ll look at the team’s special team revival as well as the recent up-and-down play of both goalie Jack Campbell and star defenseman Morgan Rielly. They’re great players for the team, but they do make errors.

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Finally, we’ll look at some of the oddities of the two recent games with both the Anaheim Ducks and the Arizona Coyotes.

Item One: How Good Are Maple Leafs’ Special Teams

With the Maple Leafs going three-for-four on the power play and then two-for-two on the penalty kill during the Ducks game, they’re now on top of the NHL in both Power Play and Combined Special Teams. According to Slindenberg.com and Quanthockey, the Maple Leafs presently sit at a 30.6 percent rate on the Power Play, exactly one percentage point ahead of the Edmonton Oilers (29.6 percent). 

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The Maple Leafs are presently tied for third in Penalty Killing with an 84.3 percent kill rate, along with the St. Louis Blues. They trail the Carolina Hurricane (88.6 percent) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (88.3 percent). The team’s combined success rate of both their penalty kill and power play is 114.89, just slightly ahead of the Hurricane at 114.84. 

David Kampf Toronto Maple Leafs
David Kampf, one of the staples of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ penalty kill (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Those statistics make their overall special teams #1 in the league. What a difference from last season’s numbers. One thing that hurt the Maple Leafs last season was the team’s special teams. Their power-play scoring rate was only 20.0 percent, which put them in the middle of the NHL in 16th place. The team’s penalty-kill units allowed goals at the rate of 21.5 percent, which gave them a 78.5 percent success rate on the penalty kill. That placed them in 22nd place. Totally a different deal this season.

Item Two: Jack Campbell’s Recent Up and Down Game

There’s no question that Jack Campbell has not looked like himself over the past few games. During the Ducks game, he was a little bit shaky in the first two periods. Certainly, the first goal was totally bad luck when Pierre Engvall’s clearing attempt went off Jason Spezza’s foot into the net.

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However, if Campbell had controlled the rebound, there would have been no goal. For the second goal, Campbell admitted after the game that it was a shot he should have and would have normally stopped. In his defense, Campbell hadn’t played in a week and only faced 11 shots in the first 40 minutes of this game. He had no chance on Anaheim’s third goal on the deflection in front of the net. 

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

Campbell settled down in the third period and in the overtime, started to look more comfortable, and made a few nice saves. He also came up big in the shootout to preserve the win.

Item Three: Morgan Rielly’s Recent Up and Down Game

Morgan Rielly has been playing lights out, but he didn’t have his best game against the Ducks. He registered his 100th power-play assist on Mitch Marner’s one-timer, but he was also on the ice for all three Ducks’ goals.  

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He was victimized by Sam Steel’s nice bank pass to Vinni Lettieri on the first goal and was unlucky to be the only man back on the Anaheim three-on-one when Jakob Silfverberg scored to make it 3-2. He turned the puck over in the neutral zone on a play that finished with Lettieri tipping in Kevin Shattenkirk’s shot from the point.  

Morgan Rielly Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Regardless of his errors, Rielly was on the ice for two seconds shy of 28 minutes. Obviously, head coach Sheldon Keefe trusts him – as we think he should.

Item Four: Shades of the Arizona Coyotes’ Game

Take away the three power-play goals during the Ducks’ game and this game was amazingly similar to the Arizona Coyotes game the Maple Leafs recently lost 2-1. According to naturalstattrick, during the Arizona game, at five-on-five the Maple Leafs had 67 percent of the shot attempts, 74 percent of the shots, 65 percent of the scoring chances, were 12 for and seven against in high-danger chances, and were 67 percent in expected goals. 

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During the Duck’s game, they had 60 percent in shot attempts, 63 percent of the shots, 79 percent of the scoring chances, were 13 for and six against in high-danger chances, and had 63 percent in expected goals. In both games, they got “goalied” in five-on-five play.

In the Coyotes’ game, it was by Karel Vejmelka; and, in the Ducks’ game, it was by John Gibson. As lopsided as those games were, it’s amazing to think the opposing teams walked away with three of four points. 

John Gibson Anaheim Ducks
Anaheim Ducks’ John Gibson gave the Maple Leafs a tough game
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Here’s how interesting the Maple Leafs and Ducks’ game was. In the end, it was a 4-3 shootout win for Toronto. However, because of the way NHL games are scored, it was a scoresheet oddity. The Maple Leafs won the game by a goal, but not a single Maple Leafs’ player had a positive plus/minus. The Ducks lost the game by a goal, but not a single player on the Ducks had a negative plus/minus. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

With three games in four nights, it will be interesting to see which goalie gets the extra start. We know that Petr Mrazek will start in Detroit against his old Red Wings team. Does that mean he’ll get the extra start against the New Jersey Devils? 

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We’re thinking he will. However, arguments could be made either way. Whatever choice will be made, we know that life in Toronto will be so much improved if Mrazek steps up to his best self.

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]