Leafs Ice Chips: Campbell goes for another record
The Maple Leafs (optional) and Senators skated at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday.
Another game and another possible record for Jack Campbell.
On Wednesday night, Campbell posted a 10th straight victory to establish a new franchise record win streak. The Leafs goalie is currently tied with Montreal's Carey Price for the longest win streak to start a National Hockey League season.
"It's been awesome," said centre Alex Kerfoot. "We've all rallied around it. It's something we've wanted for him and that he deserves. He's worked so hard to get to this point and he deserves all the recognition he's getting right now and we want to keep it rolling for him."
Campbell is an inspiring figure in the Leafs' dressing room, because of his positive personality and all the adversity he's overcome. The Michigan native was picked 11th overall by the Dallas Stars in 2010, but struggled to find his footing as a professional. He was playing in the ECHL with the Idaho Steelheads as recently as the 2015-16 season.
"Those were some pretty dark days," Campbell admitted during an interview on TSN1050’s OverDrive program. "But I will say going to Idaho kind of changed my career in a good way, because it showed me I really loved playing hockey. I had a great group of guys there in Idaho and still talk to some of them to this day."
Campbell's career really got back on track following a move to the Los Angeles Kings organization.
"I actually lived with Jack for a year in L.A. so I got to know him quite well," said Senators forward Michael Amadio, who was recently traded to Ottawa by the Kings. "He was a good guy. He loved to cook so he always had something ready for us for dinner ... He's a good competitor. In practice he was always fighting to make the save so that's one thing that stuck with him."
It seems Campbell's competitive fire is burning hotter than ever. Despite posting a .944 save percentage, tops among goalies with at least 10 appearances, Campbell is demanding more from himself.
"I'm still not thrilled about some of the goals I've given up lately so I can still play a lot better," he said during Friday's interview on OverDrive.
"He's pretty hard on himself," said Leafs defenceman Jake Muzzin, who also played with Campbell in Los Angeles. "He always thinks he should have every save, but that's not the case every time. It's contagious, though. It makes you want to be better as well to help him."
"He's very hard on himself," echoed Kerfoot, "but in a good way that makes him work hard. He's extremely competitive and very athletic in everything that he does."
There was plenty of emotion in the Leafs' dressing room following Wednesday's win as Campbell reflected on his journey and basked in the glow of his teammates' adulation. But, now, it’s time to turn the page.
"It’s definitely a huge honour, but with this season you don't really have a lot of time to enjoy anything," Campbell said. "You got to move on. That's kind of a blessing with all the games, because you're just focused on getting better and ready for the next night."
Campbell's contribution has been crucial, because Frederik Andersen, Toronto's No. 1 goalie, has been sidelined since March 19 with a nagging lower-body issue.
"I think that the easiest way to describe it is just there's no timeline to the injury," said coach Sheldon Keefe. "It's just really a matter of Fred being comfortable with where he's at and how he's feeling."
Keefe said earlier this week that there's "no concern" Andersen may be done for the season.
Campbell has never started more than 25 games in an NHL season, but seems unfazed by the heavier workload.
"My first full year up in L.A., Quickie [Jonathan Quick] went down and I got to play, kind of similar to it is right now. I think I got to play like 12 in a row and my mindset's always the same," Campbell said on OverDrive. "I don’t think anything has changed in my mind. I expect a certain standard every time I do play."
Campbell has started seven of Toronto's last nine games.
General manager Kyle Dubas made a trade on Friday acquiring centre Riley Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2022. The pick becomes a sixth rounder if Nash plays in 25 per cent of Toronto's playoff games.
"What stands out to me is the way he played against us in the series against Columbus," said Keefe referencing the five-game set in the summer bubble. "I just thought he was a real factor. I really got a sense of what he can bring there as a guy that gets really difficult match-ups, starts in his own end, plays against good players. He had a lot of shifts against our best players where you thought perhaps we would be getting the upper hand and it didn't work out that way."
Nash, who is playing on an expiring contract, has two goals and five assists in 37 games this season. He sustained a knee sprain on April 4 and is expected to miss four to six weeks. However, the 31-year-old could become an important depth contributor if the Leafs go on a lengthy playoff run.
"He's just got a history of being a very reliable defensive player," Keefe continued. "A guy who knows exactly who he is and what he needs to do to help his team win. It's great for us to be able to add somebody of his experience."
It's a much different feel around the Leafs heading into the trade deadline this year.
"Last year we were struggling heading into the deadline, had a couple bad losses, and this year we're feeling really good about our group," said Kerfoot. "We've done a good job this year to put ourselves in a good position to close this regular season out in a positive way and set ourselves up for playoffs."
"It’s actually been pretty quiet," noted Muzzin. "I haven't been talking too much about it or hearing too much about it. If pieces come that's great. It's part of the business."
Dubas may not want to mess too much with the chemistry in the room considering all the success so far. The Leafs have won five straight games, which is their longest streak of the season.
"I feel like this is the tightest group, since I've been here, that we've had," said Muzzin, who was acquired midway through the 2018-19 season. "It's been a lot of fun. The guys are gelling. We've had different line-ups and different guys come in and out and I still think we’re doing a really good job."
One of the newest Leafs, Alex Galchenyuk, has made a surprisingly smooth transition into the group since being brought in via a February trade with Carolina. The left winger is consistently praised for his work ethic.
"We think our team's competed hard and worked real hard all season, but there's an extra level of urgency and intensity in each stride that Alex has taken," observed Keefe. "I think that's really clear. You pair that with the skill-set that he has and that's why he's been having success. I don't think we had a great expectation that he was going to be as effective as he has been on the forecheck in creating loose pucks and getting the puck back for his linemates. That's been just outstanding."
Galchenyuk has played so well through 10 games that tonight he'll get a look on Toronto's top line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
"Last game was probably the best game he had with the puck in terms of making plays and gaining the middle of the ice," Keefe said.
The coach noted that among all the depth players the Leafs have given opportunities to this season no one has stood out like Galchenyuk.
"It's really impressive and I think that should send a message to those [other guys] that when they get their opportunity that that's the standard," Keefe concluded.
Galchenyuk certainly has good reason to be motivated. He was traded by the Ottawa Senators after just eight games this season and there were questions about whether his NHL days may be numbered.
"He worked really hard," said Senators coach D.J. Smith. "He worked on his details. He worked away from the puck but, ultimately, we have some guys in front of him ... we're happy that he's had an opportunity here and he's run with it."
Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stützle, Nick Paul and Alex Formenton created a road block that limited Galchenyuk's opportunity in Ottawa.
"Where we are as a team and in the process that we're in, you know, the kids not only have to play, but they deserve to play," Smith explained. "I mean, they've played well. It's no slight to him. He's certainly playing good enough to play, but at what cost? I think Timmy Stützle’s had a great year. Brady's obviously a real good player and Nick Paul as well. It was kind of jammed on the left side."
Senators winger Connor Brown has scored in six straight games to match the franchise record goal streak. Others to accomplish the feat for Ottawa include Drake Batherson (2021), Jason Spezza (2010), Daniel Alfredsson (2007), Dany Heatley (2007) and Bob Kudelski (1993).
"He's getting to the net," said Smith. "It's such an easy thing to say, but I think when players go cold they don't go anywhere near the net or they don't shoot enough. He's getting four, five shots a game now and sometimes the puck just finds a way to go in. I think sometimes you want the perfect shot to go in for you, but just keep getting volume to the net and eventually they go in. His confidence is as high as it's ever been ... it's a streak league and you just have to keep working and do the right things and sometimes the bounces go your way."
Brown started the streak with a shorthanded goal on Campbell and the Leafs on March 25 in Ottawa. He fired a career high six shots on net during Thursday's loss to the Oilers.
The Toronto native set a career high with 43 points in 71 games last season. He’s up to 22 points in 41 games so far this season.
"Just very well rounded, very good in every area of the game," said Keefe, who coached Brown with the Marlies in the American Hockey League. "Plays hard, extremely intelligent, but also has a very good skill-set. You forget just how prolific a scorer he was in junior. He's scored more than enough in the league, had a big season last year. He's a guy that can do it all and certainly does it all for Ottawa.”
Brown racked up 128 points in 68 games with Erie during his final season in the Ontario Hockey League.
Lines at Ottawa's morning skate on Saturday:
Tkachuk - Norris - Paul
Stützle - Amadio - Batherson
Formenton - Tierney - Dadonov
Dzingel - Bishop - C. Brown
Chabot - Zaitsev
Reilly - Zub
Brannstrom - Gudbranson
Coburn - J. Brown
Projected Leafs line-up based on Friday's practice:
Galchenyuk - Matthews - Marner
Mikheyev - Tavares - Hyman
Barabanov - Engvall - Simmonds
Thornton - Kerfoot- Spezza
Rielly - Brodie
Muzzin - Holl
Dermott - Bogosian