Feb 28, 2022
Campbell needs to chill out to get past ‘mental block’
During a day off in Washington on Sunday, Jack Campbell watched the movie Uncharted. Like actors Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg in the movie, Campbell is in uncharted territory these days. Saturday marked a low point for Campbell this season as head coach Sheldon Keefe felt he had to pull the All-Star even though the Leafs led 7-5 in the third period in Detroit.
By Mark Masters
The Maple Leafs skated at Capital One Arena in Washington on Monday.
During a day off in Washington on Sunday, Jack Campbell watched the movie Uncharted.
"It's a solid one," the 30-year-old goalie said with a smile. "Check it out."
Like actors Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg in the movie, Campbell is in uncharted territory these days.
"I'm still learning," he said. "It's really my first full year as a No. 1 or playing a lot, I should say. I'm just trying to learn and get better each day. There's going to be a tough stretch here and there. Look around and a lot of great goalies have had tough stretches, but it's about how you overcome it and that's what I’m focused on."
Saturday marked a low point for Campbell this season. Head coach Sheldon Keefe felt he had to pull the All-Star even though the Leafs led 7-5 in the third period in Detroit.
"I don't sugarcoat anything for you guys," Campbell said. "I always give it to you straight. For me, it's just not up to my standard. There's been a little stretch lately that hasn't been up to my standard."
Since the Leafs had a COVID pause in December, Campbell has struggled to regain his early-season magic. The Michigan native has posted an .887 save percentage in his last 15 games.
"It's a mental block kind of thing going on now that he's got to work his way through," said Keefe, "but he'll get there."
Campbell was outstanding to start the season posting a .937 save percentage in his first 23 games. He carried the load with Petr Mrazek sidelined for most of the first half due to a groin injury.
"Maybe you don't want to have such extremes," Keefe said. "Whether it's extreme good that he had established to now where it's gone the complete opposite. We think there's a good goalie there that will find a level of consistency and that's what he's continued to work through now."
Mrazek will get the start on Monday.
Campbell has played 38 games, which is already seven more than his previous career high in the NHL. The increased workload has brought increased stress.
"I'm the same goalie I was to start the year as far as strategy and talent and things like that," Campbell insisted. "It's just relaxing and having some fun and not beating myself up too much."
After Campbell was pulled on Saturday, Mitch Marner went over to speak with him at the next television timeout. Marner didn't want to get into specifics but shared the theme of that pep talk.
"He means the world to this team," Marner said. "We just want to make sure that he believes, and he is that guy. And that's thing, you know, he is that guy and he's just got to believe in it."
"I'm the same goalie," Campbell reiterated. "It's just having fun and chilling out a little bit."
The Leafs don't play on consecutive days this week, so there's an opportunity to give Campbell a breather if they want to go that way.
"It's day-to-day," Keefe said of the goaltending schedule. "We'll just deal with the day in front of us and gather as much information as we can before we move ahead ... [Goalie coach] Steve [Briere] has been working with Jack and has done a really good job. Knowing that this was going to be Petr's start today, there's more time for Jack to clear his head and get back to work."
Mrazek allowed two goals on eight shots in relief on Saturday but played well in his last start on Thursday against Minnesota. After stopping 29 of 30 shots against the Wild, the Czech native spoke about his love of soccer.
"I grew up as a soccer player," Mrazek said. "My dad played soccer. I played it outside every day, so it was always between hockey and soccer. I’ve been a huge fan since I was a kid. I know really well [soccer goalie] Petr Cech that played in Chelsea. When he retired, he's a hockey goalie now in England [with the Guildford Phoenix]. We are in touch. I have some questions about soccer, and he always has questions about hockey."
What has Mrazek learned from Cech?
"We discussed a few things about how his career went and ups and downs and being mentally ready for everything that happens," Mrazek said. "He's a legend."
Mrazek hasn't made consecutive starts yet this season but has fit in well in the dressing room.
"Raz is great," Campbell said. "He's played a lot of games in the league and been around a long time and just the knowledge and laid-back demeanour he has helps me out a lot. He's got a similar demeanour, when you talk to him, as Freddie [Andersen]."
The Leafs scored 10 goals on Saturday, but John Tavares failed to pick up a point. Toronto's second-line centre has now gone 12 games without a goal.
"Puck hasn't been going in, so just trying to stay with it, create opportunities and looks, and trust that eventually it will go in," Tavares said. "I've scored a bunch in my career. The last few nights we clearly haven't needed it."
It doesn't help that Tavares has been dealing with the flu bug, which has been making its way through the dressing room. He missed Friday's practice and Saturday's optional morning skate before logging 16 minutes against the Red Wings.
How's he feeling now?
"Still coming around," he said.
Tavares is also adjusting to a new linemate in Ondrej Kase.
"We had some good looks Saturday, some good chances," Tavares said. "Getting a better sense of who he is as a player and his style. We haven't had any practice time yet, so continuing to adapt and adjust."
"I liked a lot of things they did the other night," said Keefe. "The third period was kind of crazy for everybody. I mean, it's hard to play at the pace the [Auston] Matthews group is going at right now for anybody in the league, but I thought that line did a lot of really good things."
Keefe described the line of Matthews, Marner and Michael Bunting as "unstoppable" on Saturday night.
"It's been incredible to watch them play and the way they're carrying things in so many different areas especially offensively," said Tavares. "It's gotta be the hottest line in the league right now. Huge for us."
Marner led the way with four goals against the Red Wings. The dynamic winger had produced 14 two-goal games in the NHL, but Saturday marked his first hat trick.
"It was pretty cool, I won't lie," said Marner, who's in his sixth season with the Leafs. "I had a couple in junior ... I've had a couple chances to get it and they haven't fallen for me. When that third one went in, I tried to keep it calm, but it was a cool moment."
"There was a rumour around that he's never had a hat trick before," Bunting said with a smile. "Me and Matty were giving it to him and now he's finally gotten it. He's an elite passer and he's an elite goal scorer now."
Matthews and Bunting also scored in Detroit. What's driving the success?
"Just our willingness to, when we don't have the puck, work to get it back," Matthews said. "The way we were able to manufacture goals, I don't think it was anything fancy. It was hard work and just small-area plays to where we could find space and look for each other."
Asked about Bunting's success as a rookie, Matthews couldn't help himself.
"Isn't he 27?" Matthews quipped while taking a quick glance at Bunting, who was waiting for his turn at the microphone.
"I'm 26, by the way," Bunting responded when he got to the podium.
Bunting has only played 78 NHL games, including 52 this season. The late-blooming winger, who played mostly for the Tucson Roadrunners of the American Hockey League over the previous five seasons, has finally established himself in the NHL.
"He works hard every night," Matthews said. "You know what you're going to get out of him. He's in and around the net. He's getting under guys’ skin. He plays his game, and he plays it extremely well. He doesn't try and do too much. He doesn't get away from what makes him successful and that's why he's had success all year long, but especially as of late."
Bunting is also capable of making creative, skilled plays. On Saturday, he set up Marner's fourth goal by pulling off the breakaway-drop-pass move that Marner himself made recently.
"I thought about it by myself," Bunting cracked. "No, no, I had seen it before. I thought I would repay him the favour. He dished me a few in this building last time."
"It's a helluva play by Mike," Marner said. "First off to pick that puck off in the D-zone and then go the whole ice, get that d-man on his back and make that play. I think you can see by my reaction; I'm loving it ... It's a great feeling to be on the other end of that."
Bunting has 16 goals in five-on-five play this season, which is tied for seventh overall in the NHL.
With Jake Muzzin sidelined with a concussion, the Leafs are experimenting with a new look on defence. They have split up the top pair of Morgan Rielly and T.J. Brodie. Rielly is now partnering with rookie Timothy Liljegren while Brodie, a lefty who had played exclusively on the right in Toronto, has shifted to his strong side and paired with Justin Holl.
"It gives us better balance with the handedness and, losing Muzzin, it gives the two pairs better balance," Keefe explained.
Brodie and Holl appeared to have good chemistry in their first game together in Detroit.
"That pairing was really good," agreed Keefe, "especially those first two periods, I don't know if they ever left the offensive zone."
"I've played with him a bit on the penalty kill," Holl said. "I've always enjoyed playing with him. He has really good poise and he is always in the right spots."
Holl, who had sat as a healthy scratch in the previous two games, picked up three assists against the Red Wings.
Travis Dermott and Pierre Engvall, who missed Saturday's game due to a non-COVID illness, rejoined the team in Washington, but didn't take part in any line rushes at the morning skate.
"Dermott and Engvall are guys we're trying to get back and running," said Keefe. "They haven't skated in a few days."
Lines at Monday's skate:
Bunting - Matthews - Marner
Nylander - Tavares - Kase
Mikheyev - Kampf - Kerfoot
Robertson - Spezza - Simmonds
Rielly - Liljegren
Brodie - Holl
Sandin - Lyubushkin
Power-play units at Monday's skate:
Flanks: Nylander, Marner
Net front: Tavares
Flanks: Mikheyev, Spezza
Net front: Bunting