The Toronto Maple Leafs are now 24 games into their season and things, while not always going swimmingly, are going well. The team has turned into one of the better NHL teams. As it currently stands, only three teams have collected more points than Toronto.
What Has Gone Well for the Maple Leafs?
The team’s goalie situation, considered the biggest issue going into the season, has shaped up quite nicely. Matt Murray, who was injured after a single game, has come back with vigour. He’s now won four games in a row.
Ilya Samsonov, who played well when Murray was down, was injured himself trying to stop a breakaway from Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand. He hurt his knee and has been rehabbing. He’ll jump back into the net when he plays tonight against the San Jose Sharks.
The defensive core, which seemed fine when everyone was healthy, suddenly turned South when the defensemen started to get injured. First, it was Jake Muzzin, who went down with a neck injury. He might not play the rest of the season.
Second, it was TJ Brodie who suffered an oblique injury. Unfortunately, he’s had a difficult time coming back from it. Third, and finally, the Maple Leafs’ best defenceman Morgan Rielly has a knee injury that’s put him on the injured reserve list.
In the meantime, however, the team has been covering for its patchwork defence by playing great total team defence. It’s been clear that the players are covering for each other all over the ice. As a result, they’ve been able to weather the storm by working their seventh and eighth defensemen into the mix without suffering. In total, the team’s defence has been excellent.
Related: Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors: Marner, Samsonov & Line Combos
This Edition of Maple Leafs’ Quick Hits
In this edition of Maple Leafs’ quick hits, I’ll take a look at three players on the team. First I’ll look at Swedish goalie Eric Kallgren who stepped in to fill the gap when he was needed as a backup goalie. He was moved today back to the Toronto Marlies.
Second, I’ll look at TJ Brodie’s injury. Right now there’s no timeline for when he’ll return. However, the most recent word is that he’s skating.
Third, I’ll take a look at Mac Hollowell. He’s a young defenseman who was able to make his NHL debut and then played four games with the team. He survived pretty nicely as a third-pairing defenseman working with Victor Mete. He’s now returning to the Marlies.
Quick Hit One: Erik Kallgren Returns to the AHL
Kallgren was sent to the Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies earlier today. The Kallgren move is the mirror of Ilya Samsonov’s return to the net, Today, the Maple Leafs re-activated Samsonov who had been out with a knee injury. Samsonov had been on the injured reserve list for about four weeks.
Kallgren’s leaving with a 3-2-4 record, a goals-against-average of 2.67, and a save percentage of .898 in 10 games played. If another injury occurs, he’ll be ready.
Kallgren’s best game came in his last game. He almost got a shutout against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In total, he made 25 saves in the team’s 4-1 win last Saturday.
Related: Maple Leafs’ Nick Robertson Draws in vs. the Sharks Tonight: How Come?
Quick Hit Two: No Timeline for a Brodie Return – Yet
Sadly, Brodie’s oblique is taking much longer to heal than expected. Although he skated today, there’s no timeline on when he might return to the ice. Although the team’s defence has been hanging in there pretty well, he’s one of the most important defensemen on the team. He’s solid, calm, and makes the right play almost all the time.
Right now, the Maple Leafs are icing one of the youngest defensive units in the NHL. With Brodie out, only Mark Giordano and Justin Holl are older than 25 years. Brodie’s been out of the lineup since November 11 and hasn’t responded well to treatment – whatever that might mean.
Coach Keefe noted that Brodie had “hit a bit of a wall, but it seems like that’s started to turn. He’s been skating continuously and today was his best day on the ice so that’s a real good sign.”
Quick Hit Three: Mac Hollowell Leaves the NHL Undefeated
Mac Hollowell made the most of his time with the Maple Leafs. From his comments, it was easy to tell he was thrilled with the experience of playing with the big club. He noted that “Growing up just down the highway, I’ve always looked forward to playing in this building.”
Hollowell made his NHL debut last week in New Jersey after Rielly was injured. He also picked up his first NHL point on a nice breakout pass up the wall that led to an Auston Matthews’ goal.
Matthews was quarantined with Joe “Jumbo” Thornton, William Nylander, and Hollowell in the same house before training camp opened for the 2020-21 season. Matthews has become good friends with the young Hollowell.
A smiling Matthews noted after Hollowell’s point that “The Big Mac, he’s the man. I told him after the game, he’s undefeated in the NHL so far, so that’s definitely not a bad thing.”
Good luck to Hollowell. He played well and we’ll likely see him again soon.
Related: THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE UGLY IN MAPLE LEAFS 4-2 WIN VS. DETROIT