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In this edition of NHL Talk, the Toronto Maple Leafs are finally getting a good look at its newest goaltending tandem after months of injury issues for one goaltender and a surplus of starts for the other.
Campbell and Mrazek Are Both Healthy, Prepare to Share More Time in Net
Maple Leafs goaltender Petr Mrazek, who signed a three-year, $3.8 million AAV contract with the Maple Leafs on July 28, 2021, is back in the lineup following a pair of groin injuries that have kept him out of service. In his absence, Jack Campbell has been putting together a Vezina Trophy-contending season, with a .927 save percentage (SV%) across 29 games and 28 starts. So far this season, Mrazek has a .899 SV% in 5 starts.
“I think it’s safe to say Jack Campbell’s been the better goalie so far this year and he’s got most of the starts, rightfully so,” said THW’s Alex Hobson. “Having said that, I do think, because of the amount of money that they signed Petr Mrazek for over the offseason, they did bring him in with the intention of him sort of making up a tandem with Jack Campbell, rather than him serving as Campbell’s backup.”
Mrazek put together a strong season with the Carolina Hurricanes last year, posting a .923 SV% across 12 starts. His injuries are unfortunate, as the Maple Leafs have hardly had an opportunity to see their newest goalie tandem in action yet. Campbell is making an unprecedented number of starts for his career, but has handled it well, all things considered.
“[Mrazek’s] durability has always been a little bit of a question,” Hobson said. “He got injured two periods into his Leafs debut, which prompted Jack Campbell to take on maybe a little bit heavier of a workload than he thought.”
Now that the Maple Leafs have Campbell and Mrazek both in good health, the team’s goaltending situation looks promising. Mrazek is returning just in time to give Campbell a break from all the hard work he’s put in so far.
“Campbell’s allowed 18 goals in his last four games,” Hobson said. “He’s starting to slow down just a little bit and I don’t think anyone’s holding any grudges towards him because he’s played a lot more hockey than he probably anticipated”
Ranked 10th in the NHL and third in the Atlantic Division with a 25-10-3 record, Toronto has another 44 games to play as it looks to qualify for the 2022 NHL Playoffs, beginning in May. Strong goaltending is almost always necessary for success, and the Maple Leafs will now get to see if Campbell and Mrazek have what it takes.
“It’s going to be a packed schedule and I think now is a perfect opportunity for Petr Mrazek,” Hobson said. “He’s recovered, and he’s healthy. I think it’s a great opportunity for him to string together a couple of good starts and really show the Leafs what he’s made of, because I think ideally, for the team and for both goalies heading down the stretch towards the playoffs, you want both of those guys to be at the top of their game.”
Thank you for reading this edition of NHL Talk, and make sure to listen to THW Podcast every weekday (Monday to Friday) to hear everything your favourite hockey writers have to say about the hottest topics around the league.
Tom Pepper is an NHL columnist at The Hockey Writers. He lives in Toronto and is a diehard fan of the St. Louis Blues.