The point of this post is that I disagree with those who critique the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Erik Kallgren as a goalie. He’s far better than people – and especially his critics – think.
Kallgren Gets No Love from The Athletic
In The Athletic today, Jonas Siegel wrote that the Maple Leafs “survived with Erik Kallgren between the pipes for a week.” (from” Monday Morning Leafs Report: What Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner (temporary?) breakup means,” Jonas Siegel, The Athletic, 14/11/2022).
Two things: first, he’s not watching the same hockey games I’m watching; and, second, he simply doesn’t believe what the Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe is saying.
Keefe has done nothing to praise Kallgren. That’s true not only in the games he’s won but even after the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-2 loss. In that one, for once, Kallgren let a goal in that he should have stopped. Keefe noted, about Kallgren “I thought he played well tonight. He has been playing really well for us. Shake that one off and feel good about how you have been giving your team a chance to win.”
Of course, the coach can blow smoke just to keep up a player’s confidence, but Kallgren (to my eyes) has played quite well. He stopped almost every goal he should have. In fact, on the season, the Maple Leafs’ goalie play is considerably better than it was last season. Again, that’s me – I’m certain others might disagree.
Sure Kallgren is a rookie and he makes rookie mistakes. But he’s level-headed, even-keeled, and doesn’t get goofy when something goes wrong. He’s only going to get better with experience.
There Was No Crisis to Be Averted
Again, to cite Siegel’s comment that it was a “crisis averted,” the fact is that Kallgren was 2-1-1 for the week that he was the team’s number one goalie. He held a strong Boston Bruins team off the scoreboard when he went in cold after Ilya Samsonov was injured and couldn’t start the third period. Then he beat a really good Hurricanes team the next night on the road in Carolina.
Against the Vegas Golden Knights, he held his team in the game for a point in overtime. By the way, he stopped four of five clear breakaways to help his team gain that victory. As noted, during the Penguins’ game, he let in a goal he should have stopped and that might have cost the team the game. I agree he could have been better. Even he said so, as seen below.
Then, against the Vancouver Canucks, he helped his team register a 3-2 win and had a .931 save percentage to boot. Maybe one goal was iffy. That’s it.
Kallgren Was NOT Playing Poorly
Finally, to disagree with a quote from Siegel: “Another week’s worth of starts and Kallgren likely would have been further exposed.”
I’m unsure what “further exposed” means. He let in a bad goal against the Penguins, but other than that he played really well in his last four starts in a row.
The fact that he’s the third-stringer in this Maple Leafs’ organizational depth chart is good for the team. Instead of being a goalie who would soon be “further exposed,” I believe Kallgren’s going to become a solid goalie for this franchise one day in the future.
Until that time, I think the Maple Leafs are fortunate to have him in their system.
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