Auston Matthews, Column, Jack Campbell, Key Post, News & Rumors, Toronto Maple Leafs, Travis Dermott

This morning almost every headline about last night’s 8-3 win by the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Colorado Avalanche suggested that the game was a rout. Perhaps, in the end, it was; however, the game that I saw was tighter than the score indicated. 

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The Maple Leafs came out of the gate on fire and took a 3-0 score until the Avalanche scored with one second left in the first period. Colorado then dominated the first ten minutes of the second period; and, when Nazem Kadri got his first of two goals on the night, it was anyone’s game. Jack Campbell was the difference in that second period, holding his team in the game. 

The only other person who seemed to be watching the same game I saw was Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe, who said after the game, “’I don’t think it was an 8-3 game if we’re being honest. We played against a really good team that had some adversity.” That’s more the game I witnessed. The Maple Leafs played well, but the young Avalanche goalie Jonas Johansson was jittery in the net and Toronto took advantage.

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In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some of the events of the game as well as look at other aspects of the team as it moves to another short and tough two-game road trip. 

Item One: Auston Matthews: What Do We Expect?

Last night after the Maple Leafs’ game, I had stayed up to watch an undermanned Edmonton Oilers team put on a third-period effort to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-2. During that game, former Maple Leafs’ player Zach Hyman had a hat trick taken away by a successful offsides review called for by Penguins’ coach Mike Sullivan. It would have been Hyman’s first hat trick of his career.

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Why talk about Hyman in a post about Matthews this season? I thought of Hyman’s situation when I read a headline today that noted Matthews had gotten his first hat trick of the season in Wednesday’s 8-3 win. Really, what are our expectations as Maple Leafs’ fans for Auston Matthews? 

The headline wasn’t wrong. Hyman, who is obviously not the goal scorer Matthews is, doesn’t have a single hat trick in his career. I would be surprised if Matthews doesn’t get another one this season; or, at least wouldn’t be surprised if he did. It’s our expectation for this suddenly clean-shaven young player.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Matthews scored an absolutely beautiful goal from a dirty area of the ice near the end of the first period. Even video games aren’t capable of such moves (I don’t think). Matthews scored twice more during the third period to finish the hat trick. One goal was from also in close, but the other was more like old times – a vintage snapshot coming with speed off the wing.

Until the Avalanche game, Matthews hadn’t put up more than two points in any game this season, but he now has had three multiple-goal games. He’s scored 13 goals and nine assists (for 22 points) in his 21 games this season and has pushed his goal-scoring streak to four games in a row. It was his first hat trick since April 10, 2021, against the Ottawa Senators. (from “MOVEMBER REIGN: Matthews’ hat trick propels Maple Leafs to laugher against Avs, Clean-shaven superstar records fourth three-goal game,” Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun, 02/12/21).

Related: 2012-13 Colorado Avalanche: Where Are They Now?

The question now suddenly can be asked. Is it even possible that Matthews can again win the Rocket Richard Trophy this season? He’s up to 13 goals, but the Edmonton Oilers Leon Draisaitl has already scored 20 goals on the season. Still, there’s a chance. The 2020-21 regular season is only one-third completed. And Matthews is on a roll. In his last four games, he’s scored six goals. During his first 17 games, he scored only seven. 

Item Two: Jack Campbell Should Be Wearing a Cape Over His Uniform

Given what he’s done recently, Maple Leafs’ starting goalie Jack Campbell had a poor night. He came into the game with a season’s record of 12-4-1, a goals-against-average of 1.64, and a save percentage of .946 in 18 starts. After the 8-3 win over the Avalanche, he still leads the NHL in the top three goalie categories with 13 wins, a goals-against-average of 1.72, and a save percentage of .943.

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Again, this is a time when the headlines don’t do Campbell justice. One headline noted that it wasn’t a “stirring performance” by Campbell in the net, but that the Avalanche goalie wasn’t good. Right on the second point, but dead wrong on the first. When things got tight halfway through the second period; and, the Avalanche were pressing hard when they scored to get within a single goal at 3-2, Campbell kept his team in the game. 

What others saw as poor performance, I saw as heroic both in last night’s game and for almost every game this season. The three goals he let in last night were the most he’s allowed in a game since he gave up four goals to the Los Angeles Kings on November 8. 

Campbell has only given up more than three goals just twice this season. His three goals given up last night snapped a streak of seven straight games where he’s allowed nothing over two goals.

Item Three: Travis Dermott’s First Goal of the Season Comes with Perfect Timing

Travis Dermott scored from the point to make the score 4-2 Maple Leafs. That goal was important and came right after Nazem Kadri scored to make the game 3-2. It looked as if the Avalanche were poised to come back. In the end, they weren’t; and, that was the last goal Colorado scored.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs? 

The Maple Leafs head off on a short, back-to-back road trip to the Central Division. On Saturday they’ll be in Minnesota to play the Wild and on Sunday night they’ll be in Winnipeg to play the Jets. The team is on another winning streak, now of five games, but it will be tough to come home winning both those games. 

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Both the Wild and the Jets are good teams, but the Wild is surprisingly on top of the Central Divison and the Jets are surprisingly only two games above .500. Still, it will be a test.

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