Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Woll, Marner, Kampf & Clifford

Two different nights and two different outcomes. In the second back-to-back game for both teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs engaged an overwhelming offense to beat the New York Islanders by a score of 3-0 in the Islanders’ new facility. 

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The team was led by 23-year-old Josephy Woll, who was playing his second game in the net for the Maple Leafs. He’s now won both games he’s played. Mitch Marner also showed some of the play that had placed him as last season’s fourth-leading scorer in the NHL. Finally, the third line of David Kampf, old childhood-buddy Ondrej Kase, and newcomer-to-the-line Nick Ritchie looked strong and scored a beautiful goal to put the team up 2-0.

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In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll share insights from the game and comment on some of the player moves that the Maple Leafs made surrounding the team.

Item One: A More Confident Joseph Woll Shows Up in the Net

Joseph Woll made his first shutout look relatively easy. Part of that ease came because his team took the game hard to the Islanders and by the time Woll was called upon to face more shots his team was staked him to a 1-0 lead. That said, he played well for a rookie goalie. One mistake could have let in an Islanders’ goal and tied the game. 

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

Woll never made that mistake. Instead, he stopped all 20 shots the Islanders put on the net and the Maple Leafs added insurance for what, in the end, seemed like a relatively easy 3-0 win.

It was Woll’s first career shutout and, as noted, came in his second career start. It’s likely that the Maple Leafs’ fans won’t see the 23-year-old rookie start a game in the near future. The next Maple Leafs’ back-to-back doesn’t come until the team plays the Minnesota Wild and the Winnipeg Jets on the road on December 4 and December 5.

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By early December, currently-injured backup goalie Petr Mrazek should be cleared to resume game action. Mrazek is recovering from a groin injury that’s kept him out most of the season. When Mrazek returns, Woll will likely move back to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies while he prepares for more NHL starts in the future. 

Woll’s shown well thus far in his two games.

Item Two: Mitch Marner Back to Cruising

Mitch Marner has now played 20 games in the 2020-21 season. To say he started the season slowly would be an understatement. He had a single assist in the team’s first game of the season then went six games without a point. After seven games, one assist. 

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

During the past 13 games, he’s started to show the Marner Maple Leafs’ fans have come to expect. He was the team’s offensive leader in the 3-0 win last night by scoring the first goal of the game and the last goal of the game. Those two goals now move his season’s total to six and push his point total to 17. 

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Marner’s first goal came on a shorthanded breakaway with less than four minutes gone in the first period on a great indirect pass off the boards from Jake Muzzin. Marner then scored an insurance goal when he intercepted a neutral-zone pass and played give-and-go with Michael Bunting. For his part, Bunting put a great pass on Marner’s stick right in front of the net. 

Item Three: The David Kampf Line Looks Strong Again in Victory

Between Marner’s two goals, Ondrej Kase scored a beautiful goal that was started by Nick Ritchie of all people. Ritchie beat an Islanders’ defender to the puck, moved it quickly to David Kampf, who even more quickly found Kase alone bearing down on the goalie. Kase one-timed a quick and easy score before the Islanders’ goalie could see what was coming. It was as quick a set of two passes and a shot on the net as I remember seeing all season.

David Kampf Toronto Maple Leafs
David Kampf, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Kampf, who is not known for either his goal-scoring or his point total, now has two goals and three assists in his last seven games. The 26-year-old Czech forward has found more success this season than any other during his career. Look for him to set personal records in scoring – his highest number of goals scored in a single season was eight and he had 15 assists one season. 

Kampf seems to be everywhere on the ice and, as a result of his strong defense, he’s greatly appreciated by the coaching staff and his teammates. His shutdown play on the team’s third-line role in his first year with the team has not gone unnoticed.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

I believe the Maple Leafs are already gearing up for the playoffs. Specifically, I noticed that Kyle Clifford, who came back to the Maple Leafs from the St. Louis Blues recently, had played two games with the Toronto Marlies. I might be wrong, but I think the Maple Leafs are loading up the Marlies for a long playoff run at the end of this season. 

Last season, the Maple Leafs traded for “injury insurance” players for the playoffs just in case someone was hurt and couldn’t play. To do so, they spent draft picks – albeit low ones – to bring in defenseman Ben Hutton (for a 5th round draft choice), Riley Nash (for a 7th round choice), and goalie David Rittich (for a 3rd round choice). None of these players ever really played and then they soon moved on. 

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This season the Maple Leafs are spending bigger money for AHL players who, I’m guessing, might become the very kind of injury-insurance players the team added last season through trades. This season they won’t have to spend/waste even lower-round choices. Smart move.