TSN Toronto Reporter Mark Masters reports on the Maple Leafs holding an optional skate at the T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday ahead of tonight’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Jack Campbell faced a season-high 49 shots Saturday in Colorado, but still gave the Leafs a great opportunity to steal a few points against the rising avalanche. However, the goalkeeper did not see it that way.
“If I play up to my standard, we win that game every time,” said a downtrodden Campbell after the 5-4 overtime loss.
Early in his career, Campbell let the losses linger and struggled to ride on the emotional waves that come over a long season. Despite Saturday’s self-criticism, coach Sheldon Keefe believes Campbell has made “tremendous progress” in this area.
“No matter how he answers questions, the proof is when he’s online,” Keefe said. “He’s just cool. He’s just going out and preparing for the next day and coming back and ready to play. He was excellent the second night in Colorado … He’s been great all season and Colorado was no different. . ”
Campbell will be back between the tubes on Tuesday against the division-leading Knights. It will be the native from Michigan’s 26th start of the season that matches his previous career height in the National Hockey League. Campbell played 22 games last season and would have logged even more minutes but missed time due to a nagging leg injury.
“The big question that came in for him was whether he could stay healthy, and he has done a fantastic job with that,” Keefe said. “Players get hurt all the time and things happen, but despite the workload, there has not been a time when he has felt unable to practice or sore or anything like that. It has been really good. We has coped with his workload on some training days, but it’s just more preventative than anything else. “
Campbell, who turned 30 on Sunday, established himself as an NHL starter last season with a record of 17-3-2 and 0.921 save percentage. He has been even better this season. Campbell is 17-5-3 and will set a new career high with a win in Vegas. Despite allowing five goals on Saturday, Campbell’s save percentage remains a sparkling 0.936.
“He and the medical team have found a really good groove, and our strength and conditioning team has done a fantastic job of helping him,” Keefe said. “He’s in a good place with his body and handles this very well. We’ve had a considerable break and an easy program here, so all those things together have made him feel good.”
Campbell’s performance has been magnified due to how little newcomer Petr Mrazek have played.
“We went into this season and thought we would have two goalkeepers we would be able to rely on on any given night,” Keefe said. “It has not worked that way, but fortunately for us Jack has rolled. It has worked as positive in Jack’s case because he has taken the ball and run with it and built momentum and built confidence in his own game and found a rhythm and a groove, and then our team has grown confidence in Jack at the same time. ”
Mrazek, who has had a groin injury for most of the season, will start on Wednesday in Arizona. It will be his fourth game with the Leafs and first since December 11th.
“It’s like a new season for him,” Keefe said. “It’s been such a long time since he’s played. We had a pre-season type feeling before we got out on this road trip. He should very much look at it as a fresh start. Our schedule is going to warm up eventually. “It’s easy right now and will mostly be through the rest of the month, but it’s definitely going to warm up down the stretch. We have a lot of hockey to play down the stretch and we’ll need Petr.”
The Leafs have only played 33 games this season. Only the Colorado, Boston, Dallas, Ottawa and New York Islanders have played fewer games.
Right winger Ondrej Kase seems ready to return to the ranks.
“He seems good to the point where he did not feel the need to skate this morning,” Keefe said. “He is confident he will be able to play tonight, but it’s one of the injuries that could flare up at any time, so we will have an extra striker in the warm-up and make a decision on that time. “
Brett Seney, who played six minutes and 52 seconds in Saturday’s match, did not stay out late on the morning skate and appears to be on standby if Kase gets a setback.
Kase missed two matches after adjusting something in the gym last week. He skated on the top line and top power-play unit at Monday’s practice.
Keefe likes the defender’s way Justin Holl is trending.
“I have been really happy Justin Holl‘s fight since we’re back from this break, “Keefe said.” No one is going to play a perfect match, especially with the challenging minutes the guys take and the roles they play at five -mod-five and on penalty. kill. It’s tough minutes against very good players, but I’ve seen great progress in Holl’s game and it’s obviously really positive for him and that relationship and our team in general. “
Per NaturalStatTrick, Holl (62.8) and partner Jake Muzzin (63.1) is number two and third on the Leafs in expected goals in percentage since the calendar turned to 2022. Holl has played in all three games since the Leafs resumed their program, while Muzzin has been in two.
“It’s only a couple of games since we were back, but I feel like we’ve been pretty good,” Holl said. “There are plays you want to do differently in every game, so I do not think I play perfect hockey in any way, but I think we are on the right track. We tip the ice to our advantage in most nights. ”
Keefe acknowledged that Muzzin, who was on the ice for three Avalanche goals on Saturday, has been a bit rusty in the two matches since coming off the COVID protocol.
Holl is one of a handful of Leafs players who have not been in the COVID protocol this season.
“We have four or five players who have not got it yet,” the Minnesota native remarked. “It’s one of those deals where you’re pretty powerless. If you want to get it, you’ll get it … I’m just crossing and we’ll see what happens.”
Is there any anxiety when the daily test results come in?
“I really do not think about it from day to day, but you think about it in the long run,” Holl said. “Like, I would hate to get it at a really bad time.”
Mitch Marner and Pierre Engvall remain in the COVID protocol and will miss another match in a row.
The Golden Knights are tied with the Anaheim Ducks for most games played this season (38), but Vegas has still been affected by the pandemic. In fact, it is unclear who may be available for them in Thursday’s match.
After handling the high-octane Avalanche on Saturday, the Leafs expect a similar challenge on Tuesday in Vegas.
“They’re really good at busy,” Holl remarked. “Like Colorado, they are at the top of the league in rushing chances and they are also good at defending the rush.”
Colorado and Vegas both get a lot of attacks from their defense. Vegas led the NHL last season in goals from defenders (36) and is currently in second place in that category (26 goals) after Avalanche (35).
“Many similarities in their offensive play on the bustle and things we saw in Colorado,” Keefe remarked, “but there are other elements in the game that are challenging with their physical characteristics and how hard they also play.”
The Knights lead the NHL in blocked shots and will try to come back after a 2-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. They have great respect for the Leafs.
“Their game is real,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “When you look at the analyzes and dive into them, they are just a really solid hockey team. We understand the challenge of playing on a really good team like this that comes in. We have to lift the matter.”
“We enjoy those games,” the defender said Alex Pietrangelo. “We certainly play well when we play against teams that are going to test us. They are definitely a strong team offensively. Their numbers speak for themselves. For us, we have felt that our defensive structure has really reached the next level. level and no better way to test it than to play against them. “
The Leafs have scored at least three goals in each of their last 14 games. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Toronto has not had a long row since 1985-86 (16 games). The franchise record is 20 consecutive matches (1981-82).
Expected Leafs lineup for Tuesday’s game:
Bunting – Matthews – Case
Kerfoot – Tavares – Nylander
Mikheyev – Camp – Simmonds
Clifford – Spezza – Ritchie
Rielly – Brodie
Muzzin – All
Sandin – Dermott