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Tuesday FTB: Mrázek Magic

Is it time to switch hot hands?

New Jersey Devils v Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 31: Petr Mrazek #35 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates with teammate Justin Holl #3 after defeating the New Jersey Devils at the Scotiabank Arena on January 31, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/NHLI via Getty Images

When Petr Mrázek was signed to a three-year contract by the Leafs last summer, he was brought in as insurance against the team’s starting goalie that had just left in free agency and the new starting goalie on the last year of a cheap contract. Mrázek is a starting goalie of sorts, but more accurately described as a good partner in a tandem, which is exactly what the Leafs have needed this season.

Mrázek ended 2021 with only four starts in the team’s first 30 games. No one reason caused this, it was a combination of a couple unfortunate injuries early in the season, followed by a lot of time on the bench as Jack Campbell sprung to a league-best .937 save percentage in his first 22 starts. No one on the Leafs had given up on Mrázek, they just took advantage of a good run.

Unfortunately, Campbell has been a .880 in eight starts since the new year. Whether it’s luck, loss of form, or whatever, he’s not been great. Enter Mrázek to step up and put together a .921 in four appearances, including bailing Campbell out of a 1-3 deficit against the New Jersey Devils last night. Mrázek was able to keep the Devils to one goal on 20 shots as the Leafs came all the way back to win 6-4.

The Leafs have been very fortunate this season when it comes to their PDO luck. Early in the season, nothing was going in the net for the Leafs, but Campbell was there to make even more saves and won a number of games. The tide turned in January as the Leafs offense finally woke up just in time for Campbell to falter and come back down to Earth in some degree. The Leafs have started to give Mrázek more starts in recent days, but the Leafs have stayed in the winners circle thanks to their offense making up for that lack of performance.

Going back to Mrázek, let’s not forget that he is a capable starter for about 40 games a season. Now is the time when the Leafs should trust him, start him, and let Campbell build himself back. Call me a typical media grifter, but we haven’t had an interesting goalie controversy since Reimer vs Bernier. I’m captivated by what could happen down the stretch.


Various Leafs and Branches

Leafs turn a strong 3rd into a win over the Devils | by: Katya

Yesterday’s, but also today’s, Preview: New Jersey at Toronto and Toronto at New Jersey | by: Hardev

Auston Matthews scored a hat trick and finished with four points to reach 400 in his NHL career. He’s the fastest player the Leafs have ever had to reach that mark. Not Lanny, not Darryl, not Teeder, Keon, or Mats. Auston Matthews.

The sand has nearly run out on something you probably forgot about. Nick Ritchie, who is on the Leafs Taxi Squad at present, will either have to make his way back onto the Leafs roster or officially head to the Toronto Marlies for his first AHL stint since 2016.

We will see what happens to him, but this is an internal deadline that might result in a move. Up to now, the Leafs have been able to make it look like they’re just sitting Ritchie, but soon he’ll definitely become an AHLer. Maybe that stint will be good for him, but things can spiral fast in the AHL.

This might be my favourite visualization from Micah. Here is his (very labour-intensive) graphic of the Leafs game states this season. He has data going back to 2008 for all the teams, so have fun looking up some historic teams on his website. The viz is free for the time being.

Hockey legend Willie O’Ree will be receiving the Congressional Gold Medal from the White House for “extraordinary contributions and commitment to hockey, inclusion, and recreational opportunity.”

Both Olympic hockey tournaments will be broadcast by the CBC in Inuktitut for the very first time. Pujjuut Kusugak and David Ningeongan will be providing play-by-play. I intend to watch the women’s tournament and I will tune in for that broadcast, at least for a little bit!

I heard the Blue Jackets signed him and he scored all four goals for them in last night’s 8-4 loss to Florida.

Speaking of Florida, former Leafs prospect Mason Marchment finished the night with two goals and four assists in a career night.