Glaring Goalie Problem
Slump or true colors? Maple Leafs betting on the former with Campbell
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Leafs’ season resting on slumping shoulders of Jack Campbell
What’s Happening: The Leafs lost to the Canucks on Saturday night, making it their second straight loss to non-playoff teams. It was also the seventh game in their last eight where they’ve allowed three or more goals — highlighted by allowing seven in their victory over Detroit last weekend.
It’s official: The Leafs have a goaltending crisis.
Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek have benefitted from goal support, but they haven’t been able to shut the door when it matters most. With the playoffs lurking, the level of concern is reaching its pinnacle.
The Problem: Dubas signed Mrazek in the off-season to give Campbell rest throughout the season, not to challenge as the number one. But that’s been the case recently as the first-time starter continues to struggle. A career backup who shined up until January, the 2022 version of Campbell is providing fodder to the nay-sayers who said his performance earlier this season was too good to be true.
How good of a season was he having? For starters, Campbell played in the all-star game on Feb. 5. Prior to Jan. 5, his stats were Vezina Trophy worthy:
G.A.A - 1.87 (1st)
Wins - 17 (2nd)
Save % - .939 (1st)
Shutouts - 4 (2nd)
Since Jan. 5, Campbell’s numbers have plummeted:
G.A.A - 3.91
Record - 6-3-2
Save % - .876
Shutouts - 0
Among the 33 goalies to start at least 10 times since Jan. 1, Campbell has the third-worst save percentage (.887), topping only Red Wings counterpart Alex Nedeljkovic and Devils fill-in Jon Gillies.
Because the Leafs can score, they’ve won more than they should have: 10-7 over Detroit, 7-4 over Detroit again, and 6-4 over the Devils. But concern is ramping up with the playoffs approaching.
It’s well known that the Leafs haven’t won a playoff series since 2004. In that time, it’s fair to say they’ve be “out goalied” in all but one of those losses:
2021: Carey Price over Campbell
2020: Joonas Korpisalo over Frederick Anderson
2019: Tuukka Rask over Anderson
2018: Rask over Anderson
*2016: Braden Holtby and Anderson
2013: Rask over Reimer
*2016 is the only time you can say the Leafs had a better goalie when they took on the President's Trophy winning Capitals.
Even during the series they won in their last dominant window from 1998-2004, you can say it was an inverted scenario: an inferior roster and a dominant goalie. Curtis Joseph and later Ed Belfour carried those teams. Just ask the Ottawa Senators.
In short, the Leafs are a team that needs to have the better goalie to win. Team defense has not been good, but at some point you just need a save.
What can the Leafs do? Is Campbell simply tired? Has he lost his confidence? Is his pending UFA status affecting him? Or is this the true version of the 30-year-old goalie who’s never been a starter in his career?
Whichever reason GM Kyle Dubas chooses will determine the fate of the season. Dubas has his eyes on improving the defense, but now that focus must expand to the net as well. But with limited cap space, only three remaining draft picks this year, and goalies not readily available, what can he reasonably do?
The short answer is not much. Unless he’s willing to pay the price for Marc-Andre Fleury (but with what cap space?) or Anaheim makes John Gibson available (unlikely), there aren’t many significant upgrades available.
Looking ahead to possible playoff scenarios, it’s highly likely that the Leafs will have the second best goalie in any series once again.
“I’ll get it back. I promise I will,” Campbell said after Saturday’s loss. For Kyle Dubas and the Leafs, this seems like the only option. And with the mountain of 2004 weighing on them, it’s quite the gamble.
Links from the Rink
Deadline Tracker: Most likely trade targets
Coach’s Corner: Keefe thinks Campbell close to finding his game
Rental Season: Predicting where the biggest deadline rentals end up
Powerful Women: The most powerful women in the NHL
32 Thoughts: A deep dive into the latest in the hockey world