Another second-best goaltending performance in last night’s loss has left the Maple Leafs fan base eager to welcome back Jack Campbell between the pipes as Toronto searches for its first regulation win in five games tonight against the Flames (7 p.m EST, CBC).
Jack Campbell’s return from a month-long absence after re-aggravating a lower-body injury comes a night after Frederik Andersen, now hovering below the .900 mark, surrendered four goals in a game where his team controlled nearly 70% of xGoals. This is a huge opportunity in front of Campbell to put himself in the conversation as the team’s best option in net going forward.
It’s tough to make a case against the Leafs‘ goaltending as the biggest factor behind their recent decline. With Andersen dealing with nagging injury and confidence issues and Michael Hutchinson struggling in his start versus Ottawa, things have taken a real turn for the worse in the last couple of weeks: Andersen, specifically, is a .862 during this 1-6-0 stretch. You could be forgiven for forgetting this team was one goal away from setting a franchise record by earning three consecutive shutouts with three different goalies less than three weeks ago.
There will be no lineup changes for the Maple Leafs tonight, save for Campbell starting. That means Alex Galchenyuk will remain with John Tavares and William Nylander, although he was limited in his ice time as the game wore on with the team trailing, finishing just above Pierre Engvall with 11:19 of ice time — all of it coming at even strength.
Galchenyuk’s adrenaline level was evident last night, and the hope is it can translate into a big goal or moment that helps the Leafs out of this slump. While his role may remain somewhat limited tonight, it would be surprising not to see Galchenyuk assume a power-play role in the near future as he gets more comfortable within the team. His one-timer and ample experience on an NHL power play could come in handy down the line but, for now, the focus lies on getting him up to speed at even strength.
It’s of little consolation to a frustrated fan base at the moment, perhaps, but this fact does indicate things should turn around soon with any help at all from the team’s goaltenders: While some of it is score effects related, the Leafs have continued to control the run of play convincingly through their recent losses. Score adjusted, they are sixth in shot attempts for and eighth against in their last five games (1-4-0). A decent goaltending performance and finally getting off to a good start with an early lead would work wonders tonight.
Game Day Quotes
Jason Spezza on Jack Campbell’s return:
Yeah, Soup has obviously been great the games that he’s played. [He has a] trumendous attitude in practice every day and he just stays positive with going through a hard year in terms of injuries. When you’re dealing with injuries as a player, it can be frustrating, but he’s positive and has worked hard to get back. We’re happy to see him back to health and be a contributing member of our team.
He knows that’s a key for him — to stay up beat. I’ve known [Campbell] for a bit now — he was in the Dallas organization — and he’s just always been a guy that works really hard and is very positive. I think it spreads through the locker room. You know that he’s had days where he’s been down and frustrated, but he tries to hide it and come in with a great attitude.
Spezza on the team’s losing streak:
We’re getting team’s best every night. When we got off to start we did this season, it gets everyone’s attention. I think that shows that teams respect us and know that we’re a good team. I think you’re going to see teams’ best because of it.
When you’re losing games, it seems like every mistake ends up in the back of you net. For us as players, we have to tighten that up, but we also have to know we’re doing lots of good things and it’s not fundamental changes we need to make. We just need to [tighten] up our habits a little bit and be a little more confident in our play.
Every team goes through stretches like this. We’ve had chances to win games part of this losing streak. We just have to stick with it.
Sheldon Keefe on Simmonds’ return to the lineup last night:
Definitely, when I look back on the game, some of our best sequences came from that group. Simmonds didn’t get a great deal of minutes, but I thought he looked good for me. Obviously, I was watching that closely — he has good touches of the puck, skated well, got involved in the forecheck like he always does. That was very encouraging to see. He makes us more dangerous as a club.
Keefe on Campbell’s injury recovery:
He’s just continued to be himself and put the work in. It’s a long road for him any time you have this nagging injury. He prepared to come back for that Edmonton game and had such strong game yet aggravated [the injury] to the point that he needed more time off. That time sort of dragged on.
He’s been feeling good for a period of time here now. He’s getting into a lot of our practice session, and he’s ready to go tonight. I know he’ll be excited to be back in net.
Keefe on playing from behind:
Obviously, it’s been a major issue here for us in this little stretch — we’ve been playing from behind virtually every game. That’s tough.
Obviously, we didn’t get the start we wanted yesterday. First shot on net goes in — mentally, that’s a tough hurdle for guys to get over. We’re going to have to be a lot better from the start here and look to play with the lead, but no matter what happens, we need to remain resilient here and get on the right side of this game tonight.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#97 Joe Thornton – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#12 Alex Galchenyuk – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #11 Zach Hyman
#47 Pierre Engvall – #19 Jason Spezza – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 T.J Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#23 Travis Dermott – #22 Zach Bogosian
#36 Jack Campbell (starter)
#31 Frederik Andersen
Extras: Martin Marincin, Timothy Liljegren, Nic Petan, Alexander Barabanov, Michael Hutchinson
Calgary Flames Projected Lines
#19 Matthew Tkachuk – #28 Elias Lindholm – #29 Dillon Dube
#13 Johnny Gaudreau– #23 Sean Monahan– #18 Brett Ritchie
#17 Milan Lucic – #11 Mikael Backlund – #88 Andrew Mangiapane
#93 Sam Bennett – #10 Derek Ryan – #27 Josh Leivo
#5 Mark Giordano – #4 Rasmus Andersson
#55 Noah Hanifin – #8 Chris Tanev
#6 Jusso Valimaki – #58 Oliver Kylington
#33 David Rittich (starter)
#25 Jakob Markstrom