The Toronto Maple Leafs won their first game of the 2021-22 season. In this post, I’ll share three takeaways from the game.
Takeaway #1: There’s No One Like David Kampf on the Maple Leafs’ Roster
David Kampf has a special set of skills, and he looks good using them. In addition, he seems completely happy to do what he does all game long. He’s an absolutely shut-down player. In addition, he’s the kind of player this Maple Leafs’ team needs now and has needed for several seasons.
He plays center; he’s strong on the penalty kill; and, he just seems to enjoy taking on tough defensive tasks. After the Maple Leafs 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens, head coach Sheldon Keefe spoke about Kampf’s usefulness on the penalty kill.
To quote Keefe, Kampf’s “a great tool for us. That is why we were really happy to be able to add him. He is a unique player for us. He has a different skill set than a lot of our guys.”
Keefe added more about Kampf’s ability: “He was really strong on faceoffs today, especially on his left side. Penalty killing was really good, but his line at 5-on-5 was really good as well. They had chances. They spent a lot of time in the offensive zone. I thought Kampf was really good, as were Kase and Engvall.”
Although Pierre Engvall scored another goal, continuing from his strong preseason, I have to point out that from my perspective Kampf was a major factor in the Maple Leafs’ win tonight. Engvall needs to be mentioned, but Kampf’s play is not to be missed.
Takeaway #2: It’s Time to Quit Calling for William Nylander to Be Traded
There are two things that I simply can’t get my head around with Maple Leafs’ fans. One is the “hate on” many fans have for Mitch Marner, which I think is based almost entirely on the fact that the organization seems to value him about $3 million higher than fans do.
That said, it was great to have fans in the stands tonight in Toronto. In addition, when the team was introduced, it was a great way to start the season. Also, I appreciated the fact that, when Marner was introduced to the crowd tonight before the game, there was far more cheering than booing. That was good to hear.
The second thing is the constant call for William Nylander to be traded. Fans seem to keep saying that Nylander doesn’t go to the “dirty places,” or fight hard for the puck, or that he coasts and doesn’t engage in the play. Honest, they’re watching someone different than I’m watching.
Tonight, I thought Nylander fought hard for the puck all night. I thought he played as if he cared. And, I thought his intelligence and skill won the game for the Maple Leafs.
In summary, Nylander’s scored the game-winning goal in the 2-1 win over the Canadiens just over a minute into the third period. Nylander snuck into the play on what looked like a bit of a cavalier line change by the Canadiens, took a pass from Morgan Rielly behind the defense, outwaited Canadiens’ goalie Jake Allen, and then tossed a seeing-eye shot over Allen’s short-side, glove-hand.
Like Kampf, Nylander was a difference-maker for the Maple Leafs. Should the 25-year-old forward continue to play like this, both he and the team will benefit. He should hit the 60-point mark easily.
Takeaway #3: Jack Campbell Deserves to Be the Maple Leafs’ Starter
If you look at the box score, you’d see that Jack Campbell stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced against the Canadiens. Good night. But that doesn’t tell the entire story.
What’s just as important is when Campbell stopped those shots. Had he not been absolutely on his game, the Maple Leafs would have lost this game before five minutes of the first period were completed. The Maple Leafs’ skaters didn’t seem to show up, and Campbell kept his team in the game until they did show up.
The 29-year-old Campbell was on his game from the start. He gave up the game’s first goal, but he shut the door thereafter. He was good. It was the same Campbell who set the record for wins to start the NHL season in 2020-21. He’s earned the right to be the team’s starter. I can’t imagine any goalie playing better.
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