In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ Quick Hits, I’ll look at three areas the team is preparing for as the regular season winds down. Specifically, I’ll look at some of the team’s goals for ending the regular season. Second, I’ll look at why this team is different and better than teams from the recent past.
Third, I’ll take a look at one key takeaway from the Maple Leafs’ game on Sunday night against the Washington Capitals – that is the fact that young Swedish goalie Erik Kallgren is proving he’s at least an adequate goalie.
Related: Three Takeaways from Maple Leafs’ 4-3 Shootout Win Over the Capitals
Quick Hit One: Maple Leafs Goals for the Remainder of the Season
As a team, the Maple Leafs have three goals remaining for the rest of the regular season.
Goal One: Wrap Up Home Ice Advantage
Now between now and the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Maple Leafs have one big goal. They need to get one more point to wrap up the home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. If they do, given the crowd in Scotiabank Arena, that might just give the team a push they need to survive and prosper in the postseason.
Goal Two: Load Management
During the game against the Washington Capitals, John Tavares sat out. That’s load management. Anyone who’s a bit older might find their way to the press box for a game off. That includes players like Mark Giordano and anyone else who’s a bit longer in the tooth. Giordano’s been great, but no one wants to wear him out.
Goal Three: Can Auston Matthews Hit 60 Goals and Mitch Marner Hit 100 Points?
As a pragmatist, it’s easy to say that individual goals don’t matter that much in comparison to team goals; and, that’s correct. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t matter to the individual players involved. Obviously, Matthews would love to score 60 goals. The same with Marner. It’s worth a bit of effort to help those players achieve some individual goals.
Quick Hit Two: What Makes This Team Better than Those of the Past?
As all Maple Leafs’ fans know, counting the 2020 bubble season when the Maple Leafs met the Columbus Blue Jackets during the play-in series, the team will have reached the postseason playoffs in six straight seasons. They’ve had some good teams over those seasons. Yet, they’ve come up empty since 2004 when they won a first series match-up.
This season is different. Not only does the team have elite firepower on the top lines, but it has depth players who could score secondary goals during the postseason. The depth is considerably better than it was last season and might be the kind of difference that could spell victory this year when it didn’t last season.
Specifically, Ilya Mikheyev has scored 20 goals. Pierre Engvall and Ondrej Kase have scored 14 goals. Alex Kerfoot has scored 13 goals. In fact, twelve Maple Leafs’ players have scored double-digit goals.
Even David Kampf has scored 11 goals on the season. The Maple Leafs are – once again – a very good team; but, their depth makes them better than they were in the past. That depth will score an occasional goal, which might be the difference in a tight playoff series. It would have been last postseason.
Everyone knows what Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and William Nylander can do. But Michael Bunting can score, and Mikheyev and Engvall have size, speed, and skill. The result is that this team might be more formidable than it’s been during other postseasons.
Quick Hit Three: Erik Kallgren Is Proving He’s an Adequate NHL Goalie
One of the biggest takeaways from the Capitals’ game is that Erik Kallgren showed he can be a solid NHL goaltender. Right now, he’s a game-ready backup goalie with good skills and positioning, a ton of confidence, and a mental attitude that is solid.
He won’t let an occasional 8-1 drubbing shake him. He could be a solid backup goalie entering the playoffs. Kallgren was great in his last game. He stopped 34 of 37 shots during regulation and overtime. He also played a confident game during the shootout.
Kallgren is calm and confident. He’s also a fighter. He was behind by a score of 3-1, but he held his ground and the team came back. His disposition is a key to his success. He might have been rattled after giving up eight goals in a single game; but, it didn’t seem to phase him.
It was a solid game by the young goalie. He might become a good one.
Related: Three Takeaways from Maple Leafs 3-2 Overtime Loss to the Panthers
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