The Toronto Maple Leafs are involved in the rare situation where both their two top goalies are injured at one time. Certainly, NHL goalies get injured; and, often the organization’s third-stringer is called up to replace an injured goalie. Sometimes, as was the situation last season with the Maple Leafs, that third-stringer actually gets into games.
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Last season, when both Maple Leafs’ goalies Petr Mrazek and Jack Campbell went down with injuries, both Joseph Woll and Erik Kallgren were introduced to Maple Leafs’ fans. However, I don’t recall a time – without searching the game logs – when Woll and Kallgren were numbers one and two at the same time.
Is It Time for the Maple Leafs to Panic?
This season is different. The organization has had to go to the goalie well to bring in numbers three and four (or five, depending upon where you consider Woll in the mix) up to the NHL. Is it time to panic? I, for one, don’t think so.
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First, it’s early in the season. Second, if the team were looking for a quest to rally around, protecting its young goalies would be one. Third, for a long-term thinker, what a chance to see what the organization has in its depth. Fourth, for the optimist (as I am), what a neat challenge that will be unfolding that Maple Leafs’ fans might watch.
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In fact, there’s even a chance that the organization’s fifth-string goalie might actually get to play a few games for the team. And, over the long term, how interesting is that?
The Maple Leafs Catch a Break With Nicolas Aube-Kubel
On Friday, when the Maple Leafs waived forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel, I can’t imagine they had any idea what would be unfolding. But they sure got lucky when Aube-Kubel was claimed off waivers by the Washington Capitals.
Had Aube-Kubel not been claimed, the Maple Leafs still would have been in some serious contract issues. They were at the maximum of 50 NHL contracts, with no wiggle room. Aube-Kubel being claimed allowed the team to sign Keith Petruzzelli to an NHL contract and bring him up to the big club.
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That’s why all this noise about the Maple Leafs seeking another goalie from outside seems like clickbait to me. The season is young and there’s reason to suspect one of the top two goalies will return soon. I can’t know, but I don’t see the organization panicking, especially after Erik Kallgren’s strong play in Carolina on Sunday.
Young Goalie #1: Erik Kallgren
Kallgren was strong in the net against the Hurricanes and registered his first win of the season. He only allowed a single goal on 30 shots on Sunday, and his team won 3-1.
Although there’s a lot of noise out there about what goalie the Maple Leafs might pick up, there’s no ring of any truth to it. With at least the possibility that Matt Murray might return, it would seem to be that Kallgren will become the short-term number-one goalie for the Maple Leafs over the near future.
His record is now 1-1-2, and honestly who knows how he might have fared had his teammates played to their potential in the games he lost. The fact is he’s only given up 12 goals in the five games he’s played this season.
His first start in the role of number one certainly was a success. The only goal he gave up was on the power play (to the Hurricanes’ Stefan Noesen) in the first period. Noise and rumours aside, look for Kallgren to be the starter until Murray returns from his groin injury and Ilya Samsonov returns from his knee injury.
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Currently, from what I hear Murray is considered close to returning, which could come within the week.
Young Goalie #2: Keith Petruzzelli
As noted, when Aube-Kubel was picked up by the Capitals, the organization moved quickly to sign Petruzzelli. At that point, and I can’t imagine there wasn’t a conversation about it, the team could have traded for another goalie from outside the system. It didn’t.
There’s no question Petruzzelli is needed. As it stands, none of the three goalies Murray (injured groin), Samsonov (injured knee), or Woll (injured shoulder) are available. Petruzzelli immediately jumped to the NHL roster and served as backup to Kallgren Sunday in Carolina.
I recall when the Maple Leafs signed Petruzzelli. It was a bit of a surprise that the Detroit Red Wings didn’t sign him. He was their third-round draft choice in 2017, being drafted after his 2016-17 season with the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks. After that season, Petruzzelli spent four seasons playing NCAA hockey at Quinnipiac University.
[As an aside, Quinnipiac University is a beautiful little university in rural Hamden, Connecticut. The university is named after the Quinnipiac People, who are part of the Native American nation and a member of the Algonquian family.]
While Petruzzelli was at Quinnipiac, he was both a 2021 Hobey Baker Award Top 10 Finalist and Mike Richter Award Finalist. His NCAA record was 51-27-8. When the Red Wings didn’t sign him, he signed with the Toronto Marlies during the 2021 offseason.
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It’s likely that Petruzzelli was in the Maple Leafs’ plans, but probably not this early. The team was probably hoping to bring him along more slowly. Last season with the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers, he strung together a 16-6-1 record, a goals-against-average of 2.01, and a save percentage of .927.
With the Marlies this season, Petruzzelli started the season with a 6-0-0 record, a goals-against-average of 2.31, and a save percentage of .922. There’s a good chance Maple Leafs’ fans will see him in the net sooner rather than later.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs
After the team plays the Vegas Golden Knights at home tonight, it will play back-to-back games against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday and the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
I’m thinking Kallgren gets the start against the Penguins on Friday, with Petruzzelli starting against the Canucks on Hockey Night in Canada.