Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Woll, Kase & This Team Has Swagger!

Every once in a while, I get a note from a reader that suggests that he or she is in my same age category. And, I appreciate hearing that. For those of us who were fans of early television, let me start this post by taking you back to one of the iconic early television police shows – Dragnet, which ran for nine seasons from 1951 to 1959.

In that show, Sgt. Joe Friday, who was portrayed by Jack Webb, always went straight to the heart of the matter and didn’t condone beating around the bush. When gathering information from suspects, he would often say “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Rising Trade Values, Core Four & Rubins

So here are “just the facts.” The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the San Jose Sharks by a score of 4-1 last night. Rookie goalie Joseph Woll won his third straight game to start his NHL career. William Nylander and John Tavares both scored a goal and added an assist.

Wayne Simmonds scored his second goal of the season; and, the second of the game, and the second he scored it, it became the game-winner. (Although we didn’t know that until later.) Auston Matthews scored his ninth goal of the season. 

The Maple Leafs have now played their third road game on this mostly west coast trip, and are a perfect 3-0. If they win in Anaheim on Sunday late afternoon, they’ll head home to Toronto with a perfect road record. 

In this post, I want to share some of the events of last night’s game as well as comment on what this game might mean for the team and the players moving forward.

Item One: Is This a Team that Exacts Revenge? 

There’s no doubt that the Maple Leafs are a team on a roll. But are they also a team with an attitude and a mission? If so, that would seem to be a good thing. On October 22, the Sharks came into Toronto and beat the Maple Leafs by a 5-2 score. On November 8, the Los Angeles Kings also came into Toronto and left with a 5-1 victory. 

Related: Who Were the Best Full Right Goalies in NHL History?

During the last two games, the Maple Leafs have exacted revenge on both those teams. I have to believe those earlier losses were mentioned in the dressing room prior to each game more than once. That the team came out and completely overwhelmed both teams that had earlier beat them suggests to Maple Leafs’ fans that this is a team that settles its scores. 

That bodes well for the playoffs; and, although the season is just past the quarter pole, so far so good on this team making the playoffs. Looking at the NHL’s Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference, the Maple Leafs are one of four teams tied for the top with 31 points (not considering games in hand). The other teams are the Florida Panthers, the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Washington Capitals.

The Maple Leafs took care of the Kings by a score of 6-2 on Wednesday and last night took care of the Sharks with an impressive 4-1 thumping. The team has now gone 13-2-0 since October 27. That record follows a four-game losing streak and a stumbling start when they lost five of six during the first two weeks of the season. 

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews scored a goal in last night’s game for the Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The team seems to have turned things around. This might be the Maple Leafs’ team with the nastiest attitude I’ve covered over the three seasons. If Maple Leafs’ fans don’t watch themselves, they might even come to accuse this team of playing with swagger. That would be new.

Item Two: Joseph Woll Remains Perfect for His Career

As noted earlier, Joseph Woll won his third game in a row in the  4-1 victory over the Sharks. Over his past two games, there have been few stumbles (last night’s first goal looked like one he might want back). After that goal, Woll’s performance was impressive. During a couple of minutes during the third period, he was pushed hard by the Sharks’ offense and his quickness and tenacity kept the puck out of the back of the net.

Related: Ducks News & Rumors: Rakell, Zegras & More

On the night, “the Brick Woll” stopped all buy one of 35 shots. His save percentage for the game was a sparkling .971. With the shutout against the Islanders in New York, he’s now posted two solid performances back-to-back. 

Joseph Woll Toronto Maple Leafs
Joseph Woll, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

A few readers who’ve watched Woll play with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies have noted their surprise at his success. Could it be the different team in front of him? Whatever, Woll’s success presents a positive and interesting emerging goalie dilemma for the team over the course of this season.

Item Three: Ondrej Kase Sits Out, But He’s Okay

Ondrej Kase was a “sort-of” healthy scratch (he’s banged up a bit) on Friday night. The word was that he was resting after a heavy workload in Wednesday’s win over the Kings. Kase, who’s in his sixth season in the NHL, only played three games last season because he battled concussions. However, he’s stayed relatively healthy given his I’ll block any shot they take attitude. 

On the season, he’s scored five goals and added three assists in 21 games. Despite his nagging injuries, mostly from blocking shots, it was the first game Kase’s missed this season. The 26-year-old Czech right-winger has put up six points during his last eight games.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

For a change, the Maple Leafs are not part of the Hockey Night in Canada lineup tonight. Instead, the team travels to Anaheim to play the Ducks on Sunday. That will complete the team’s four-game trip. Undoubtedly, starting goalie Jack Campbell will be in the net. 

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

When the team returns home, they’ll only be there for a single game against former teammate Nazem Kadri and his Colorado Avalanche. Then the team heads out to Minnesota and Manitoba to play the Wild and the Jets. 

Related: Revisiting the Nazem Kadri Trade

I’m looking forward to the Avalanche game. Kadri has been on a scoring streak like no other he’s experienced during his career. It will be good to see him back in Toronto.