Jack Campbell has looked nothing but great this season for the Toronto Maple Leafs? The only issue for him has been his health. Since his first injury during a game on January 24th against the Calgary Flames, Campbell has been in and out of the lineup nursing some sort of an injury. My guess is that there’s a link between his recent injuries and the leg injury he incurred during the first game in which he was injured.
For All Campbell’s Success, It’s Been An Injury-Filled Season
For those who might not recall that first injury – and I’m not sure many Maple Leafs fans have forgotten, with just a few minutes left in the third period of a game that the Maple Leafs won 3-2, the Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk was trying to push a puck through the Maple Leafs’ goalie. During the scrum that took place, Tkachuk landed on top of Campbell’s back with both knees.
Campbell, who had apparently hurt something in his lower body just minutes prior to that pile-on, was slow to get up and appeared hurt. It was announced a couple of days later that Campbell would be out a month with that injury. Indeed, it took Campbell that long – a month – to hit the ice again for the team.
Injury or Not, Campbell’s Been Perfect
Since that time, he’s been perfect. He hasn’t lost a game and his victory on Monday night was his ninth in a row, which set a record for the Maple Leafs’ franchise. Still, there have been concerns about Campbell’s fitness to play. The Maple Leafs’ organization has responded by managing his workload very carefully. For example, when he isn’t playing recently he isn’t even dressing.
Specifically, when third-stringer goalie Michael Hutchinson tended the team to a win on Sunday over Calgary, Campbell wasn’t even sitting on the bench. That raises speculation that Campbell is still nursing that same injury, but head coach Sheldon Keefe simply using the phrase “workload management.” So far, Campbell’s won nine in a row, so it’s tough to disbelieve what you hear if you’re a Maple Leafs’ fan.
There was Campbell in net on Monday night against these same Flames; and, once again, success. He remained undefeated by stopping 26 of 29 shots in the 5-3 win over Calgary. That gave the 29-year-old goalie a 9-0-0 record with a goals-against-average of 1.53 and a save percentage of .944 in the nine games he’s played.
How Good Has Campbell Been?
How good has Campbell’s win streak been? So good that as I noted it equals a Maple Leafs’ franchise record that was previously shared by Felix Potvin (1993-94), Jacques Plante (1970-71), and very-long-ago goalie John Ross Roach (1924-25).
Typical of Campbell’s share-the-credit philosophy, he noted: “It (the record) just shows how well we’re playing as a group.”
Campbell added, “You don’t get those wins without everybody. Tonight we got a huge contribution from the power play to put the game away. We’ve been really building our game all year.”
The Question Is: Should Campbell Be the Goalie of the Future?
Campbell has successfully replaced former Maple Leafs’ starter Frederik Andersen since he’s been out with his lower-body injury this season. The likelihood is that Andersen won’t be back next season. His contract with the team expires at the end of this season and the Maple Leafs don’t have enough salary-cap space or flexibility to re-sign him. Thus, it would be of great benefit if Campbell could carry the load into next season.
But can he become a successful, full-time starter both during the end of this season, into and through the playoffs, and throughout next season? His next start will likely be in Wednesday’s home game against the Montreal Canadiens. Should he win, it would set the franchise record with 10 straight wins. Hmmm. That gets one thinking.
Campbell’s been amazing in the Maple Leafs’ net. The 29-year-old has not given up more than three goals during any of his nine starts. I suppose there are two immediate answers to the question of Campbell’s future place on the team. First, how will he play on Wednesday night? Second, what will general manager Kyle Dubas decide before the April 12 trade deadline, which is now only five days away.
It’s an exciting time for Maple Leafs’ fans. As Campbell says himself, ”The record’s a huge honor. But it’s all about winning.” Can Campbell help the Maple Leafs win?
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