Maple Leafs get the spark they needed to defeat 'fragile' Flames
TSN Toronto Reporter Mark Masters reports on the Maple Leafs, who held a media availability with coach Sheldon Keefe ahead of Monday's game in Calgary.
Jack Campbell is good to go tonight in Calgary as he looks to turn a remarkable run into a franchise record. With a ninth straight victory, Campbell will tie Felix Potvin (1993-94), Jacques Plante (1970-71) and John Ross Roach (1925) for the longest winning streak in Maple Leafs history.
"I'm just executing the game plan," Campbell said following his latest impressive effort on Friday in Winnipeg. "[Goalie coach] Steve Briere has done a great job of making things easy for me mentally and physically. Just executing that and getting confident and calmer each time. There's plenty of areas I don't like and just keep working on it and keep getting sharper every time."
In franchise history, only Potvin has started a season with nine straight wins.
There's no question that something special is happening with Campbell right now even as his workload is managed due to a nagging leg injury, which was originally sustained on Jan. 24 in Calgary. The 29-year-old's play and positive personality has boosted the Leafs even on nights when he's not dressed, which was the case on Sunday.
"I noticed against Edmonton [in my last start], I felt I was a little too tense," said Michael Hutchinson. "Watching Jack play in Winnipeg, you notice how much fun he's having on the ice. My mindset for the game was to just go in and have as much fun as possible."
The Leafs had lost three straight games that Hutchinson started, but the goalie ended that skid with an impressive 32-save effort last night.
"I'm not to the point of winking at our guys on the ice yet and having that much fun, but his attitude is just infectious," Hutchinson said of Campbell. "When you're playing and you're having fun and you see him having fun, it makes you lighter out there and a little bit easier to react to the play and just enjoy yourself."
Campbell has won both of his starts against Calgary this season, including posting a 31-save shutout on March 20.
Campbell has allowed no more than two goals in any of his six road starts this season.
Alex Galchenyuk picked up his first goal as a member of the Leafs in his eighth game with the team.
"It means a lot," the 27-year-old said. "It definitely felt good getting the first one and most importantly we got the win."
Galchenyuk has earned positive reviews so far while slotting in beside William Nylander and John Tavares on Toronto's second line.
"He continues to get more and more comfortable," noted Tavares, who also scored on Sunday. "You're around the group, playing in our system, the type of team and the type of players we have, you're only going to get more comfortable. Just trying to really get in sync and get in rhythm and, obviously, at this time of year things get tighter and tighter. It gets much harder to get open ice and time and space. I think that's where his work ethic and determination will continue to come through."
Since posting a 51-point campaign in Montreal during the 2017-18 season, Galchenyuk has taken detours through Arizona, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Ottawa while trying to get his career back on track. The Senators traded Galchenyuk to the Hurricanes in February and the Hurricanes then flipped him to the Leafs after he cleared waivers.
Galchenyuk spent some time in the American Hockey League before making his Leafs debut on March 19 against the Flames.
"He's had a lot of really, really good chances," observed Auston Matthews, who trained with Galchenyuk in the off-season. "In all the games he's played in he's been one of the hardest-working guys on the ice and that’s all you can really ask for. He's meshed really well with JT and Willy. All three of those guys have an immense amount of skill and can really make plays and find each other out there so I think he complements them well. He's just working his ass off every night so that's huge."
Matthews broke his stick during another fruitless Leafs power play on Sunday night. Toronto has now gone 11 games without a man-advantage marker.
Matthews was then spotted on the bench taping a fresh stick.
"I had two different heights so I just had to get a new one because I broke both of the ones that I had," the centre explained.
Matthews had no shots after two periods, but Toronto's top line roared to life in the third, scoring a big goal.
"Just a really nice forecheck," Matthews said. "[Zach] Hyman made a really strong play on the wall. I got it down to Mitch [Marner] and I just tried to get to the net and get open for him and he made a really nice pass."
Matthews is now tied with Hyman for the team lead in road goals this season with nine.
It was the second straight game when the Leafs didn't have their best stuff, but walked away with two points. After a strong start on Sunday, Toronto lost its way through the middle of the game and got outshot 13-6 in the second period.
"It definitely wasn't our best," Tavares acknowledged. "We looked a little sluggish at times, but I really like the way we stuck with it and had to respond and find a way to play a harder type of game to really earn more pucks, win some more races and really get to their net. We defended really well and played a quicker game in the third, which I think allowed us to take control. There's going to be nights when you don't have your best, but you've got to work and compete and find ways to get your game going and I think we did that."
The Leafs got off to a slow start on Friday in Winnipeg, but used a great second period to get back into the game before leaning on Campbell down the stretch against the Jets.
"We're showing good maturity as a team staying in these games," veteran forward Jason Spezza said on Friday. "It showed some good growth for us to stay patient."
Rasmus Sandin returned to practice with the Toronto Marlies on Monday. The 21-year-old defenceman has been sidelined since sustaining a foot fracture on Feb. 15. The injury occurred in his first game with the AHL club this season. He only played five minutes in one NHL game this season.
"Mentally, that has been the toughest part," Sandin said. "The whole off-season you're waiting to get back and play and coming back and getting this injury it was tough. When you get back here and get the season started you want to play every single game, but it feels unbelievable to get back. I had time with strength staff and I built my body up even more so I feel good now ... It's an unbelievable feeling to see all the guys again."
"He's handled it really well," said Marlies coach Greg Moore. "He's always a guy that has a smile on his face. He comes to work every day, works hard and is dialed in with what he needs to do. He's a guy that, in the locker room and on the ice, always lifts everybody else up around him. It's kind of what's special about him as a person."
Sandin played 28 games with the Leafs last season and in an interview with TSN on Friday, general manager Kyle Dubas said the plan is to get the top prospect back with the big team soon.
"We would expect him, at some point here in the second half of our season, to contribute to the Leafs and be ready to go for the playoffs with us," Dubas told James Duthie.
"That’s great," Sandin said. "I feel like the organization obviously believes in me."
But before getting back to the NHL, Sandin is focused on getting up to game speed with the Marlies. There is no set timeline for his return.
"We'll get some good practices in this week and then, as a staff, we'll have discussions with the sports science department and see where he's at at the end of the week," Moore said.
"We'll give him some time to get going with the Marlies," said Keefe. "I suspect there will be an opportunity for him to get in with us."
The Leafs will not skate or hold a media availability on Tuesday.