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

The Vancouver Canucks embraced the moment: the Toronto Maple Leafs did not. In the end, the Maple Leafs rallied in the second period to go up by a goal 4-3, but then couldn’t hold that lead as the Canucks came storming back to win the game by a 6-4 score. The last Canucks’ goal was a late-game empty-netter. 

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The Maple Leafs offense was strong; and, only a great game by goalie Thatcher Demko held the Blue and White off the scoreboard at the end of the game. The Maple Leafs’ played virtually in the Canucks’ end of the ice for the last four minutes of the game, but Demko just stopped them over and over again.

Related: Is Demko Here to Stay With the Canucks?

On the other end of the ice, the once Vezina Trophy candidate Jack Campbell kept letting goals through him – a leak here and a leak there. Mind you, he wasn’t helped by the team’s defense in front of the net; however, no doubt he’ll be claiming responsibility for the loss as he always seems to do. This time, he’ll be right.

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

In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at the news emerging from the game and what this news might mean to the players and the team going into the near future.

Item One: John Tavares Finally Breaks Out

John Tavares was due for a breakout game, and he had it. Tavares had suffered through a streak of 14 straight games where he hadn’t scored a goal, but last night he got his 18th. He just looked like he was on his game, and he played with a great deal of enthusiasm all night. He might have had more – except for Demko in the net. 

Auston Matthews John Tavares
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews celebrates with teammate John Tavares (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

In addition to his goal, the Maple Leafs’ captain also registered an assist on Nick Robertson’s first regular-season NHL goal. By the end of the game, Tavares remained below the point-a-game pace with 52 points in 54 games, but it’s good to see him hugging his teammates rather than looking skyward and rolling his eyes.

Item Two: Nick Robertson Scores His First Regular-Season Goal

I’m still unsure whether the coaching staff sees Nick Robertson as a viable top-six player for the team or if they’re showcasing him for a trade. Either way, it worked out last night when Robertson scored his first-ever, regular-season NHL goal on a really nice two-on-one with William Nylander. 

Related: The Top Ten NHL Goalie Prospects

Robertson has a history of being a goal-scorer, and he looked the part last night. His time playing with Tavares and Nylander was a success. He looked like a water bug all over the ice and brought a level of energy to the play. He’s valuable for that aspect alone. (from “Robertson’s impact felt on look on Tavares line … Campbell doesn’t bounce back … Matthews on another level,” Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun, 05/03/22).

Although he played only 11:16 minutes, it was an active time on the ice. He’s hard not to watch. His goal was his first point in four games played.

Nick Robertson Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s good to see Robertson back from his injuries. In his first game of the season, he broke his leg. That seems similar to the tough luck – or perhaps less than tempered play – that seems to keep him in rehab much of the time. 

Item Three: Auston Matthews Has Once Again Taken Over the NHL Lead in Goals Scored

Auston Matthews had been held off the scoresheet for two games, but he came back with a vengeance by scoring two goals in last night’s loss to the Canucks. The big center is simply magic with the puck. He carried his team back from a two-goal deficit, but – try as he might later in the game – two was all he could get last night. He needed four.

Related: Auston Matthews’ Impact on the Hockey World…So Far

On the season, Matthews has now scored 39 goals and 31 assists (for 70 points) in 52 games played. It looks as if he’s going to go down to the wire with the Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl for the league lead. 

Item Four: Jack Campbell Lets in Five Goals – Again

It’s tough for me not to feel sad for Campbell. Given his demeanor, that he surrendered five goals (on only 28 shots on the net) won’t sit easy. The truth is that he hasn’t been good enough. And, sooner or later, the Maple Leafs’ fans are likely to turn on him.

When Matthews gave him the 4-3 lead heading into the third period, I thought there was a chance to hold on for the win. But, it didn’t happen. He kept letting juicy rebounds get away and his teammates couldn’t clear them in time. It wasn’t a functional partnership.

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

There’s no question the defense didn’t pay him any favors, and there were breakdowns in front of the crease all night. Give the Canucks credit; they converted their chances. 

Now what to do? In his last four games, The 30-year-old Campbell has surrendered five goals in three of them. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The thing about hockey is that the games keep coming. The next team up is the Blue Jackets on the road in Columbus. Then the Maple Leafs return home for a Tuesday game against the Seattle Kraken. 

Related: Maple Leafs: Campbell’s Journey From ‘Lost Soul’ to Franchise Records

I wonder what head coach Sheldon Keefe will do with his goalies? Does he start Petr Mrazek on the road and come back with Campbell in Toronto on Tuesday? Or will he start Campbell on the road to shelter him from the Maple Leafs’ fans?  

Or does Keefe even think about such things? Someone probably needs to.