The Maple Leafs downed the dreadful Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 thanks to another strong game from William Nylander and Jack Campbell on Tuesday night.

With Auston Matthews still out of the lineup, Sheldon Keefe scrambled the forward lines yet again and managed to get goals from across the lineup, including two-point nights from Nylander and Ilya Mikheyev. Jason Spezza scored his first goal in 21 games, Timothy Liljegren and Mark Giordano continued their strong play, and Jack Campbell made 37 saves for another win.

The train keeps rolling along as the Leafs are now 12-2-1 since the trade deadline.

Your game in 10:

1.   For the second straight game, the first point of the game review concerns the forward lines, which changed yet again. Not long before puck drop, we were informed that the line blender had been fired up again, producing the following starting combinations:

At first glance, this seemed bizarre and completely random. At second glance, it made much more sense. If you consider Nick Abruzzese to be the stand-in for Auston Matthews, and you re-order the lines to have that line as the first unit, it actually seems rather intuitive.

We know that John Tavares seems comfortable with bump-and-grind type wingers, and Mikheyev/Blackwell fit that bill. The William Nylander line included Alex Kerfoot still taking reps at center, but more importantly, it broke up Nylander and David Kämpf — they have long seemed like a clunky stylistic fit — and tried Kämpf out on the fourth line for the first time.

If Keefe really wants to keep Tavares and Nylander apart in the playoffs, I think this may be the best way to configure the lines (with Matthews in for Abruzzese, obviously). Put Kämpf on the fourth line and flip him around when needed based on defensive assignments, while you give Nylander more rush-based players to skate with.

I’m not sure this will stick for more than a one-night experiment, but I continue to be encouraged by Keefe’s willingness to stay flexible and use a (mostly) meaningless end to the regular season to take a look at all the possible permutations of the lineup.

2.    The first period was mostly forgettable, with each team generating a few chances and about a dozen shots, but none went in.

The action really got started early in the second stanza. Alex Kerfoot went in on the forecheck only 90 seconds into the period and eventually made a terrific pass from below the goal line into the slot, where Timothy Liljegren snagged it and rifled it by Martin Jones:

I’ve said plenty of nice things about Liljegren in my game reviews prior to this, but he continues to merit the praise. The expected goals darling status remains true, but he is also piling up points as well, with nearly all of them coming at 5v5. He now has five goals and 17 assists for 22 points, with only one point (a goal) coming on the PP.

Entering tonight, Liljegren was 10th in the NHL in points/60 at 5v5 among defensemen who have played at least 450 minutes at 5v5 this season. The list of the names ahead of him includes elite offensive players such as Cale Makar, Roman Josi, Aaron Ekblad, and Victor Hedman — incredible company for a rookie like Liljegren to keep.

What really stands out about Liljegren’s play right now is how well he is reading plays offensively. That was true on his goal tonight, with Liljegren finding the pocket of free ice and moving down to claim it. He saw the play developing, knew where he needed to be, and then did the rest with a hard, well-placed shot.

In a year where there aren’t a whole lot of big-name rookie defensemen besides Moritz Seider, there is a strong case to be made that Liljegren should receive plenty of votes for the other defense spot on the All-Rookie Team.

3.    The Flyers struck back midway through the second period on a play that began with a defensive-zone turnover. After Ilya Lyubushkin was unable to get the puck out, the play filtered to the point, where a shot came in from Keith Yandle and a scrum in front ended with Old Friend James van Riemsdyk doing what he does best: scoring goals from only a couple of feet out.

This goal did bring to mind the one concern I would have about Lyubushkin in the playoffs. His physicality will be a big asset in postseason games, but his struggles handling the puck are an area of worry, especially against a team that can forecheck very well.

This is not me advocating to take Lyubushkin out of the lineup. After all, the Leafs don’t have a healthy seventh defenseman currently. But if Lyubushkin were to have a poor playoff, I’d guess that it stems from how he is handling the puck and making the first pass to facilitate zone exits against teams that effectively take away time and space.

4.    The game remain tied for just over five minutes, a span that saw the Leafs pick their energy level up after a largely sluggish stretch following their opening goal. They got an opportunity on the power play and didn’t let it go to waste.

John Tavares held the puck below the goal line, flipped it to Mitch Marner on the right boards, and then Marner made a dagger cross-zone pass through a gaping hole in the Flyers’ penalty kill to William Nylander, who notched another PPG:

That was Toronto’s third try on the power play after two unenthusiastic attempts in the first period which saw them struggle to even set up.

Nylander now has 13 power-play goals this season, which is tied for 13th in the league at the time of this writing. As the tweet notes, that was Nylander’s 32nd goal to set a career-high, while Marner’s primary assist was his 95th point of the season, also setting a career-high.

After their PP skid, the Leafs have now notched tallies with the man advantage in consecutive games.

5.    The scoring wasn’t done in the second period, though, as the Leafs scored a third goal in the frame thanks to the oldies. An odd play saw multiple Flyers hit the deck and created a mini-3v2 chance for Toronto. Jason Spezza started it, and Spezza finished it:

Assists went to Wayne Simmonds, who helped enter the zone and establish possession, and Mark Giordano, who read the play very well to zoom up and enact the give-and-go with Spezza.

The fourth line’s usage was a bit disjointed tonight in that David Kämpf played a chunk on different lines at 5v5 (taking defensive zone draws mostly), while Simmonds and Spezza played exclusively together. The two veterans had a great night. When Kämpf joined them, that line was terrific. Scoring chances were 4-0 in Toronto’s favor at 5v5 with those three on the ice together, while shots were 5-0 and shot attempts were 6-0, per Natural Stat Trick.

The Leafs have started to receive more consistently decent performances from their fourth line in the last few games. Kyle Clifford scored on Saturday night, the fourth line was the best line analytically on Sunday, and then Spezza picked up a goal tonight to cap off another strong analytical performance.

The rotation of the veterans with one or two main roster players seems to have created a bit of success on the fourth line.

6.    We haven’t discussed the Leafs’ penalty kill yet, which had a solid outing tonight. They were perfect in killing penalties, and as per usual, created a couple of offensive looks for themselves.

Pierre Engvall and David Kämpf created a high-danger chance shorthanded in the third period, while Colin Blackwell generated a shorthanded rush in the first that ended in a shot rattling the mask of Martin Jones. Defensively, I didn’t think it was spectacular, but they didn’t give up gobs of high-danger looks, either.

More importantly, the old cliche was true tonight: your best penalty killer is your goalie. Jack Campbell, who we will discuss more in-depth later, made a couple of very nice stops in the third period during a Flyers PP which had a window to make the game more interesting. This save on JVR was a gem:

Another ho-hum evening where the 2021-22 Maple Leafs handily won the special teams battle.

7.    After killing off that penalty, the Leafs scored a goal halfway through the third period to more or less end the contest.

A good shift from Ilya Mikheyev and David Kämpf hemmed the Flyers in before Pierre Engvall went off for a change and was replaced by William Nylander, who headed to the front of the net. Ilya Lyubuhskin‘s shot was redirected by Kämpf in mid-air then glanced off the skate of Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov — who was battling with Nylander — and found the back of the net:

It took several minutes of detailed, Zapruder film-like analysis of the slow-motion replays to determine that the shot did indeed go off of Provorov and not Nylander to give Kämpf credit for the goal.

That is Kämpf’s 11th of the season, and it is his second straight game with a goal. He has already set career highs in every offensive category, and his proficiency with deflections has stood out as the focal point of the modest offense the defense-first centerman has to offer the Leafs.

8.    The Flyers were out of the game by this point, but they did manage to get one back early enough to justify pulling the goaltender later on. With under three minutes to play, Philadelphia was in the midst of its final push and rookie defenseman Ronnie Attard snagged the puck, slid down the wall, and wired a seeing eye shot bar-down over the shoulder of Jack Campbell:

I don’t have too much to say about this goal other than it was a heck of a shot by Attard. I would’ve liked to see the Leafs hold the Flyers to only one goal against, but you can’t always get what you want. Besides, giving up that goal allowed Toronto to pad their offensive numbers by cashing in with the empty net.

9.    About that empty netter. The Flyers got right on the objective of pulling the goalie, but they didn’t get much of anything during the 6-on-5. The Leafs tied up the puck along the boards and won the board battle with extra manpower. Next up was the controlled zone exit, which the tandem of Ilya Mikheyev and Pierre Engvall made look so easy:

Mikheyev grabbed the empty netter for his 18th of the season in just 48 games. Engvall is now up to 32 points, continuing to smash all of his career-highs previously. Both of these players are having big-time contract seasons relative to expectations entering the season.

10.    I usually like to close these pieces off with a look at the goaltending, so we will do the same again tonight. Jack Campbell was terrific tonight for his second consecutive very strong start.

After posting a .931 SV% on Sunday night against the Islanders, Campbell stopped 37 of 39 shots for a .949 SV% tonight against the Flyers. These two games represent the first time that Campbell has posted two consecutive starts of >.930 goaltending since January 5. He graded out as +1.03 in Evolving Hockey’s goals saved above expected numbers, and he’s now had two straight positive GSAx performances for the first time since those same two games in early January.

I already shared one good stop from Campbell, but there were a couple others that stood out in my memory. He looked strong moving laterally across to stop this 2v1 chance by the Flyers:

A goalie scout once told me that one key thing to look for in goaltenders is whether they beat the puck to the spot or not. Campbell does exactly that here by reading the play like a book and assuming that the pass-first Kevin Hayes will indeed choose pass.

Beyond that play, I thought Campbell looked comfortable and confident in the crease yet again. Rebound control was adequate and his puck tracking ability was excellent. He rarely lost sight of the play and he was positionally very sound, looking ready for the shot when it arrived.

The past two games are two very reassuring signs for Campbell going into Thursday night’s clash with the Lightning. His outing against Tampa a few weeks back was his best since he returned from injury, and another performance like that would likely all but wrap up Toronto’s quest for home-ice advantage in the first round.

In six starts since returning from injury, Jack Campbell is 6-0 and has a .915 SV%. He is -0.84 GSAx in those starts, but as previously mentioned, his last two were two of his three best. His numbers are a bit worse if we include his appearance in relief against the Panthers, but I don’t hold that one against him, nor did I include it in that stat (hence “starts”) because it was a very difficult circumstance in which to enter the game. But when starting, Campbell has been his career average, which is a fine starting NHL goalie.

And the thing is, that may be all the Leafs need to win a series. They will likely need Campbell to punch above his average to beat a high-powered offensive team like Florida or Colorado, but to beat a Boston or Tampa, they probably only need a .915 Campbell, so long as the offense produces like it has this season. That Campbell is starting to look like that goalie again is a very good sign. Now we’ll see if he continues to find his groove in a stiffer test on Thursday night.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Game Highlights: Leafs 5 vs. Flyers 2