Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Tavares, Marner, Matthews & Campbell

A 5-1 lead should have been enough for the Toronto Maple Leafs to beat the Florida Panthers. But it wasn’t. The Panthers came chipping back – one goal at a time – until they had taken a 6-5  lead during the third period. 

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Fortunately, John Tavares had one goal left in his stick and used it to draw his team into overtime. Unfortunately, Jonathan Huberdeau ended it quickly. Still, when this road trip began, most Maple Leafs’ fans would have happily taken five of the six possible points they could have gained playing the Philadelphia Flyers, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Panthers over the first three games. 

If the team can win in Dallas on Thursday, that would culminate a highly-successful road trip. However, suddenly, the question is the goaltending again. Erik Kallgren has suffered an injury and Jack Campbell wasn’t able to hold a two-goal lead when he entered the game in relief.  

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It’s always something. Still, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe ended his post-game media conversation with the note that: “I am feeling really good about where we are at as a team. … For me, this last little stretch we have been on — Florida at home, Boston on the road, Tampa last night, and Florida here — I was looking to come out of this segment with a sense of where we are at as a team and whether we can compete with the very best in our division. I think that answer is an unequivocal yes. That is all I am going to take out of this.”

Item One: John Tavares Pushes His Team to Overtime

John Tavares came through late in the third period to help his team take at least one point from what must have been a demoralizing game. Prior to his their-period goal, Tavares had registered a power-play assist on Mitch Marner’s second goal of the night. 

Sheldon Keefe; John Tavares
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe talks to captain John Tavares
(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

However, it was Tavares’ own power-play goal with just under four minutes left in the third that helped the Maple Leafs avoid a complete meltdown. 

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I saw this note about goals NHL players who’ve scored the most goals since Auston Matthews entered the NHL in the 2016-17 season. Obviously, the statistic was generated to celebrate Matthews’ prowess as a goal scorer. However, notice that Tavares is number seven on the list.

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Sometimes I seem to forget how great Tavares has been for the Maple Leafs in that department, but he’s one of the NHL’s best goal-scorers.

Goals Scored Since the Beginning of the 2016-17 Season

PlayerGoal Total
Auston Matthews253
Alex Ovechkin247
Leon Draisaitl228
Connor McDavid219
David Pastrnak213
Brad Marchand197
John Tavares181

(from “SIMMONS: Mike Bossy – the great goal scorer – explains Auston Matthews’ prowess,” Steve Simmons, Toronto Sun, 05/04/2022).

Item Two: Mitch Marner Sets Another NHL Record

Mitch Marner just won’t stop putting up big numbers. He had a productive two-night run through Florida. Last night he had four points and the night before he had three points. That’s seven points in two nights. His two goals and two assists put him up to 31 goals and 57 assists (in 61 games). His goal total is his best ever, and his season’s best in points was 94 points put up during the 2018-19 season. I’ve never seen him so dominant as a player.

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

During the second period, Marner set an NHL record with his unusual accomplishment. He scored two goals just 37 seconds apart – one was a short-handed goal and the second was a power-play goal. That was another NHL record; it was the shortest amount of time between a power-play and a short-handed goal in NHL history.

Item Three: No Goal for Auston Matthews, But Three More Points

Auston Matthews added three more points to his NHL point total and now is tied for fourth in the league with 95 points. The great Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid is leading with 106 points. Matthews’ 95 points have been scored in only 65 games.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Last night, Matthews shared the puck with Maple Leafs’ goal scorers three times in the 7-6 loss. Those three assists – two of them on the power play – helped his team race out to their 5-1 lead. Blowing that lead must have been a downer, but it also might be a good lesson to learn during the regular season. Better now than the postseason.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Losing a single point to the Atlantic Division leaders is probably not the biggest issue on the night for the Maple Leafs. That goalie situation has once again raised its ugly head. Oh, life would be so much easier if Campbell and his partner (whoever that might be) threw a shutout every game against the opposition. Alas, that’s not the way NHL hockey works.

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Fortunately, although Kallgren was removed from the game after taking a puck to the facemask, after the game coach Keefe reported that he was “fine.” In fact, Kallgren returned to the bench and was healthy enough to back up Campbell during the third period. 

That’s a good sign for Kallgren’s availability. Undoubtedly, it will be Campbell again in Dallas with Kallgren in the backup role.