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Who’s the “New” Maple Leafs’ Goalie? Not Michael Hutchinson, Is It?

Michael Hutchinson had a poor 2019-20 season with the Maple Leafs. But he re-signed. How has 2020-21 been different for him?

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Ok, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ goalie Michael Hutchinson isn’t technically new to the team, but he hardly represents the same goalie that Maple Leafs’ fans dreaded to see enter games when Mike Babcock was the head coach of the team.

That lack of success might not have all been on Hutchinson. It seemed Babcock always played his backup goalies in the worst possible situation – when the team was on the back end of two games in two nights. As a result, the backup goalie was always playing in front of a tired lineup. Who knows, but I would guess that situation had to be depressing.

Related: Is the Maple Leafs’ Jason Spezza the NHL’s Biggest Bargain?

Did Hutchinson lose his confidence – at least until he went to Colorado and almost led the Avalanche to the Western Conference finals at the end of the 2019-20 season?

Why Would the Maple Leafs Resign Hutchinson Again During the Offseason?

When Michael Hutchinson re-signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Maple Leafs during the offseason, most Maple Leafs fans were mystified. They had to believe that Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas was getting his team prepared for the Seattle Kraken draft. The organization needed to expose a goalie – and that would be Hutchinson.

Michael Hutchinson, Maple Leafs

If that were the case, given Hutchinson’s play, the Kraken might just draft him. That’s how much things have changed over the past few games. Hutchinson’s been that good.

Just How Good Has Hutchinson Been This Season?

Hutchinson’s record on the 2020-21 season now stands at 3-1 after he blanked the Edmonton Oilers by turning away every shot – all 31 of them – he faced in Monday’s 3-0 shutout victory in Edmonton. It was Hutchinson’s first shutout since January 4, 2020, when he beat the New York Islanders. It was also the sixth shutout of his NHL career.

Who would have thought that the Maple Leafs could ride into Edmonton and shutout the Oilers in back-to-back games – not with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and others in the line-up?

Tracking Hutchinson’s Games This Season

If you’re tracking, Hutchinson’s first game of the season ended in a 7-3 win over the Ottawa Senators when he made 34 saves. He record then fell to 1-1 when the Calgary Flames came into Toronto and beat the Maple Leafs 3-0. Because he was the only Maple Leafs’ goalie left standing, Hutchinson had another chance against the Flames the very next game and beat them 2-1 in overtime.

Michael Hutchinson Avalanche Maple Leafs
Michael Hutchinson, when he was with the Colorado Avalanche last season

Then this game against the Oilers. So far this season, Hutchinson has only allowed seven goals on 123 shots in four games. Doing the math, that’s a .950 save percentage. Given that his save percentage last season was .886 save percentage in 15 games (11 starts), are we really sure this is the same guy?

Two Things Going for Hutchinson

The first thing Hutchinson has going for him this season is that the Maple Leafs’ defense is hugely improved. Second, he’s improved. In fact, head coach Sheldon Keefe noted that he had great confidence in “Hutch.”

Specifically, Keefe noted that “You look at Hutch: I think there’s only one (other) player on our roster that was winning games in the second round of the playoffs last year.” (That other player was Zach Bogosian, who helped the Tampa Bay Lightning win the Stanley Cup).

From Keefe’s perspective, Hutch is “coming in here with a different level of confidence than what he had the last time around.” Given how Hutchinson has played, Keefe was right.

Hutchinson Praises His Teammates After His Shutout Win

In the video below from Monday night, Sportsnet’s Gene Principe interviewed Hutchinson following his 30-save shutout performance against the Oilers.

Will Hutchinson Play Again on Wednesday Night?

Given Hutchinson’s play on Monday night, does coach Keefe have a tough decision about whether to use Frederik Andersen or play Hutchinson on Wednesday night? Andersen practiced on Sunday and Monday and seems close to coming back from his injury.

I’m thinking Hutchinson’s time as the team’s starting goalie might not last very long. But you have to think he’s played himself into a contract for next season – and not in the AHL.

Related: Maple Leafs Weighing NHL Expansion Draft Options on Hyman, Andersen

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