After blowing two different leads in the third period, the Toronto Maple Leafs were able to rally in overtime, as earn Jack Campbell the win in his debut.
The Toronto Maple Leafs secured a crucial victory Friday night, defeating the Anaheim Ducks 5-4 in overtime.
The game was a must-win for Sheldon Keefe’s squad, who jumped back into a playoff position with the win. It was also the first game in a Leafs uniform for newly acquired goaltender Jack Campbell, who earned the victory and the game puck from his teammates in the post-game celebration.
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Campbell was sturdy through the first two periods, before sloppy turnovers and odd-man rushes led to the Ducks scoring three in the third. When Derek Grant scored the equalizer with 58 seconds to go, it almost seemed like the nightmare week for the Leafs was about to continue.
But any momentum started by the Ducks was stopped in overtime. The Leafs dominated the extra period, which was spent mostly in Anaheim’s zone. And the final goal, which saw Matthews, Tavares, and Marner all play a part, brought the trio’s tally to ten points on the night combined.
The Leafs do not have much time for celebration – they play Montreal tomorrow night, as part of Rogers Hockey day in Canada lineup. Inspired by the quick turnaround, here are four quick thoughts on what we saw tonight – and what it could mean going forward for the Leafs.
Thoughts on Campbell’s Debut
Just last Saturday, Michael Hutchinson had seemingly turned the corner. He had just won an important Saturday night game, and his play in overtime against the Ottawa Senators had raised the team’s confidence. But 48 hours later, Hutchinson was forced into the starting role with an injury to Frederik Andersen, and his play in the next two games clearly showed a lack of stability.
A move had to be done, and, for the moment, Kyle Dubas looks like a genius.
Yes, Campbell’s third period was a little alarming – but many of those goals were set up by poor defensive play – they would have been problems for anyone between the pipes.
Watching the Leafs interact with Campbell post-game, it’s clear they feel comfortable with him in net – there isn’t the “walking-on-egg-shells” feeling that a Hutchinson start would suggest.
The full extent of Andersen’s injury is still not known, but he has been confirmed to be out Saturday. Campbell could, and should play Saturday. He was acquired to limit the need to go to Hutchinson, and he just won his debut. Keep the mojo going.
Clifford brings the round stuff
Kyle Clifford had a fairly decent debut, the kind that Sportsnet analyst Kevin Bieksa said would quickly make him popular in the dressing room.
Yes, he stayed off the scoresheet, but that is not why they acquired Clifford.
He roughed up the opposition, recorded four hits, four penalty minutes, and even took a few shots. More importantly, he stood up for teammates after the whistle, showing that he would already go to bat for them.
The Leafs can use that toughness and grit going forward – it’s what playoff hockey is all about. And while the Leafs do not have many players with championship experience, Clifford played 24 playoff games for the Kings on their way to their second Stanley cup in 2014.
He knows what it takes, and seems to be a good addition to the room.
Matthews’ dominant season continues
With his goal tonight, Auston Matthews scored his 40th of the season, equalling his total from his rookie year.
That season, (2016-17), Matthews played all 82 games. This time around, he reaches the mark with 27 games to go.
Barring some kind of injury, Matthews should easily surpass 50 goals, and if he even throws a couple of two-goal games in there, he could have a real shot at Rick Vaive’s single-season record of 54.
Matthews play is another nail in the coffin of Mike Babcock, who fair or not, never seemed to trust his young centre in the high-pressure points of the game. Keefe has no such hesitations, as Matthews again played on the overtime power play, and rewarded his coaches trust with a four-point night.
If the Leafs are going to make the playoffs, they need to win an absurdly high percentage of their remaining points. That can only happen if their stars step up – and make no mistake, Auston Matthews has stepped up all year.
Veterans leading the way
The Leafs had a great night from their veterans. Captain John Tavares scored the game-winner, and for the 11th time in his career, has a 20-goal season with a chance for 30.
Jason Spezza also found the back of the net in the third, in what in hindsight became a crucial goal.
Keefe said post-game that he’s worried the late-game collapse could be indicative of some hesitancy or lack of confidence when things aren’t going well, but the response from his veterans were just the remedy to stop the bleeding and get the win.
These remaining 27 games are going to be high stress, physical, and demanding, and will take a mental toll on the Leafs as they scrape and claw for the remaining playoff spots. There are three other teams either tied or a point behind the Leafs, and all of them have played less games. They need the veteran play to continue.
What were your thoughts on the Leafs win? Who impressed you the most? Let us know in the comments below.