There should have been no doubt as to who was going to be the starter in Game 1 of the playoffs for the Toronto Maple Leafs but Sheldon Keefe had to go through the formal process.
At no point during the season had the Leafs acknowledged that Frederik Andersen was no longer the team’s starting goaltender. It was pretty much implied that with his performance, Jack Campbell pushed himself to the top of the depth chart.
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Really, the only concern the Leafs had about Campbell wasn’t his performance after going 17-3-2 with a .921 save percentage. The team was worried about his health and whether he could handle the workload of being a starter.
“It’s really just his results that he’s gotten for us, both in wins and saves,” Keefe said about Campbell. “The confidence that he’s built for himself and then in turn the confidence that our team has in him. He’s done a terrific job.”
Andersen could still find himself starting in this series as there will be a back-to-back from Games 2 and 3. It’s quite interesting that the NHL would schedule games to be played on consecutive nights in the playoffs but this also underscores the importance of having two goalies ready to go.
Toronto did what they could to get Andersen into an NHL game before the end of the regular season and likely could go to him in the second half of the back-to-back. However, the opportunity ahead of the Leafs has the pressure on Sheldon Keefe to ensure that his best lineup is out there.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Sheldon Keefe looking to Rasmus Sandin to kickstart power play
There aren’t many concerning parts of the Leafs’ game heading into the playoffs other than their play with the man advantage.
For fans to dread the fact that the team has a power-play opportunity shows just how much of a concern it has become. That will happen when a team only scores five power-play goals over their final 29 games as Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston notes.
The biggest change that Keefe made during the season was having Rasmus Sandin take Morgan Rielly’s spot on the top unit. There’s no secret that the youngster is thriving with the opportunity to play and only got scratched in the final few games because of the salary cap.
At practice, Sandin was back on the third pairing with Travis Dermott and with PP1. It’s clear that Sandin’s willingness to shoot the puck more than Rielly and makes the Leafs less predictable to defend considering anytime the puck is passed to Rielly he is looking for his next target even if there is an opportunity to shoot.
At this stage, Toronto can’t let the power play be a reason why they lose in the post-season and hopefully, they are able to reset in Game 1.
What are your thoughts on Campbell starting Game 1? Is there any surprise or should it have been announced earlier? Also, do you think Sandin should remain on the top power-play unit? Let us know in the comments below.