In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Notes, I’ll share short news items and commentary emerging from the Maple Leafs’ team and organization. I’ll also try to put that news into a context both for the season and beyond.
Item One: William Nylander Goes From Last to First with the Maple Leafs
William Nylander scored as his Maple Leafs clinched the North Division title with a 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens last night. It was the team’s first division crown since 2000.
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After the game, Nylander noted that ”We’ve come a long way.” Then Nylander added, ”It’s been a long process and a lot of hard work. This is just a stepping-stone for where we want to go.”
I can’t know what the young Swedish forward meant when he noted that “we’ve come a long way.” However, what likely makes this division-clinching victory special for Nylander is that he is one of the remaining core Maple Leafs’ players who was with the team when it finished in absolutely last-place during the 2015-16 season. Morgan Rielly is another.
On that team Nylander and Rielly were two of the few young bright lights, and it’s a very different squad today than it was in 2015-16. It has to be quite a trip for those two, which perhaps makes it a bit more special.
Personally, Nylander’s on a hot streak. He’s scored in seven straight games (with three goals and four assists) and also has points in 11 of his last 12 (four goals and 11 assists). He’s not everyone’s cup of tea as a player, but I think he’s been more aggressive on the ice recently and he sure can put the puck in the net.
Item Two: Mitch Marner Scores Game-Winning Goal
One player who wasn’t around with Nylander, but who’s now firmly entrenched as one of the team’s core players is Mitch Marner. Marner looked like buddy Auston Matthews when he ripped a game-winning, one-timer past Canadiens’ goalie Jake Allen off a face-off win. It was his 20th goal of the season. Matthews assisted on the goal.
It was Marner’s third game-winning goal in his last eight games and his fifth on this season. Matthews leads the NHL with 12 game-winners. This was Marner’s third 20-goal season of his five overall seasons, and he’s scored at least 67 points each of the last four seasons.
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Marner’s turned into an elite producer and he’s currently tied for third place in the NHL scoring lead with 67 points. Of course, the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid scored his amazing 100th point in 53 games last night. McDavid’s the leader, of course.
Marner’s 67 points have come in 54 games. And he’s far above a point-a-game pace for the season. He’s also now scored 358 points in 354 games during his NHL career, so he’s moved past the point-a-game pace for his career as well. Marner’s one of the great young offensive stars in the NHL.
Item Three: Goalie Jack Campbell’s Quieter, But Still Winning
When Jack Campbell was setting the NHL’s record with 11 straight victories to begin the season, he was the talk of the town. Things have quieted some, but Campbell’s still winning. His play has been absolutely heroic for his team and he showed up at exactly the right time when starter Frederik Andersen went down with his knee injury.
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He was the goalie of record in Saturday’s win against the Canadiens. There’s no doubt that, when this season is history, Campbell’s work will be part of the team’s story. He’s played amazingly well, and his 17-2-2 record, goals-against average of 2.11, and save percentage of and .923 in 21 starts prove it.
It would be hard to know where the team would have been in the standings without Campbell’s amazing season. It was right that he was in goal for the division-clenching victory.
Item Four: Frederik Andersen Loses Rehab Assignment with the Toronto Marlies
There’s good news that Frederik Andersen is getting healthy again. On Saturday, Andersen played his second game with the Toronto Marlies. The Danish goalie didn’t win, losing in a 5-4 in a shootout to the Manitoba Moose, but he’s looking healthy again.
After the game yesterday, Andersen admitted that no one has talked to him about the next steps, but he said he’d be “ready for whatever happens…if I can get some (NHL) game action, that would be great.”
The Maple Leafs only have two games remaining. They play on May 12 in Ottawa and on May 14 in Winnipeg, and it’s likely Campbell will get one more regular season start. Is it possible Andersen gets the other? I’m guessing no for salary-cap reasons, but it would be interesting to see. I’m also assuming that Campbell starts the playoffs because he carried his team to the division title, but I’m not privy to what head coach Sheldon Keefe is thinking.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
It’s been a good season for the Maple Leafs. I’m not surprised they won the division, because I thought they had a great team. But then I thought they had one last season, as well.
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I suppose I’m like many Maple Leafs’ fans in that. Every season, I expect the best. Now, of course, I expect a long playoff run. The truth is that I have no idea how the Maple Leafs will stack up against the other strong NHL teams from the United States. I hope we will soon see.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf