For as tough as Tuesday’s game was for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Calgary Flames, this one should have been just as easy. The Winnipeg Jets were playing on the road for their 17th game of their last 22, were just finishing a five-game road trip, and had played (and won) against the Ottawa Senators the night before.
Still the Jets came out and, after falling behind the Maple Leafs 1-0, came roaring back to win by a 5-2 score. The culprit? New record-setting Maple Leafs’ goalie Jack Campbell. In truth, Campbell simply wasn’t good enough on this night to carry his team to a win as he’d done 11 times before this season.
Is the Love Affair with Campbell Over?
Oh Oh! Now what to do about Campbell? Can the Toronto Maple Leafs win with him as their goalie? Is the love affair over?
All these questions – and more – suddenly must be haunting many Maple Leafs’ fans who just a week ago were anointing Campbell as the next great one. The Maple Leafs’ fanbase is not a patient one; and, given this latest showing – Campbell let in three goals in six shots and was quickly pulled in favor of newcomer David Rittich – there’s sure to be some controversy.
Campbell Never Got Settled, and His Team Didn’t Help
Obviously, when you allow three goals in only six shots, it isn’t good. Clearly, this game represented Campbell’s biggest gaffe of the season (for sure) and in his Maple Leafs’ career (also for sure). It was by far his worst game as a Maple Leafs’ goalie, and it didn’t take his head coach Sheldon Keefe very long to end the misery.
With just over half of the first period gone – 13:54 to be exact – Keefe decided the team needed a change and he made it. Rittich came in and gave up a single goal in 17 shots in the mop-up role. Campbell’s record now falls to a still-impressive 11-2-0 with a goals-against average of 2.19 and a save percentage of .922 for the season.
A Shaky Start After a Great Season: Is It a Sign?
So, was it Campbell’s fault? Of course some was, but not fully. He was only average in goal and against a strong offensive team like the Winnipeg Jets average wasn’t enough. On top of that, once again for some unexplained reason the Maple Leafs came out flat. Also once again the team’s power play sputtered. The result wasn’t a winning formula.
There’s now likely to be lots of discussion from Maple Leafs’ fans after Keefe’s pulling of Campbell on this night. If so, what a turnaround. Fans – myself included – had anointed him as the starting goalie for next season already.
Might Campbell Be Injured?
Could it be that Campbell is injured and has broken down a little more than load management could control? Fortunately (in a way) for himself and the team, because the Maple Leafs’ two scheduled games against the Vancouver Canucks are likely to be postponed, the team will get some rest and practice.
What really might matter most now is how Campbell plays his next time out, which I expect would be next Wednesday in Winnipeg against these same Jets. In fact, the Maple Leafs have three straight games against the Jets starting in the middle of next week. Don’t look now, but should Toronto lose all three games they would suddenly fall the second place in the North Division standings.
Head Coach Keefe Scolds His Team
As always, Campbell was apologetic about his game. He noted, ”Giving up three in the first; it’s unacceptable. I put the team and David in a really tough spot.”
Coach Keefe obviously would have liked a better result but stuck up for his goalie when he added that had pulled Campbell to also shake up his skaters.
Specifically, Keefe admitted, ”We didn’t take care of him (Campbell) there. He’s taken care of us a lot this season, so just felt it was best to give him the rest of the night off. He’s been outstanding for us all season long. He didn’t deserve that in the first period.”
As I say, the key to this is how Campbell comes out in his next game – against these same Jets probably. Another outing like tonight might spell trouble.
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