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Wednesday FTB: Erik Källgren brings hope

Relive the rookie’s debut shutout

NHL: MAR 15 Stars at Maple Leafs
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 15: Toronto Maple Leafs Goalie Erik Kallgren (50) is named the first star of the game after winning his first career game with a shutout after the NHL regular season game between the Dallas Stars and the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 15, 2022, at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, ON, Canada.
Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s been so rare to see a solid goaltending performance, Maple Leafs fans have every right to overreact to last night’s shutout win over the Dallas Stars. Erik Källgren stopped 35 shots in his first NHL start, becoming the 25th goalie in NHL history to do so.

Even if Dallas isn’t the most offensive team — and didn’t put up very good numbers despite trailing for much of the game — but they had moments, big and small, that have gone in against the Leafs in the recent past. Källgren stopped those chances at the end of the first, in the middle of the second, and in the beginning of the third, to keep the Leafs ahead. And the skaters responded by not trying to do too much and just played their game.

Here’s a selection of his saves on the night. Thank you as always to Omar.

At the end of the night, Källgren got the first star of the game. You can see his eyes well up with emotion, and honestly I felt it too.

Looking forward for the Leafs, I can’t see them not playing Källgren for as long as they possibly can, especially leading up to the trade deadline. If they can get Campbell back, and Källgren looks bedded in and comfortable, there won’t be a need to get another goalie. The worst case scenario for the Leafs would them having to spend assets on a goalie this deadline, so if Källgren can play, it helps them out a lot.

The focus should then shift to defense and forward. Reports are that Kyle Dubas has widened his scope from just getting one defender to looking at multiple positions. I can see them trading Justin Holl for a cheaper equivalent that will work better with Muzzin when he returns (I don’t see them trying to swing for the fences here), and then bringing in another forward, preferably one with some centre experience that can help the second line offensively. Alex Kerfoot has been okay at it this year, but the team might need the cap space instead. The key is finding players who will impact the results on the ice for the team (for example the defensive numbers for Nylander’s line), and will be someone Sheldon Keefe will trust to play.

Speaking of Keefe, he’s hit. milestone as the fastest Leafs coach to 100 wins, and tied for fifth fastest in NHL history with Dan Bylsma when he was with the prime Crosby and Malkin Pittsburgh Penguins.

Furthermore, speaking of Crosby, only he, Ovechkin, and Tavares have at least 12 20-goal seasons after JT scored his 20th last night. He just keeps doing that, year in year out, eh.

As well, Mitch Marner became the first Leaf to record 40 assists in each of his first six seasons.

Various Leafs and Branches

Leafs Nihilism | by: Fulemin

This is how I pictured Fulemin as he tried to describe how hockey should work, and then how it works for the Leafs. Granted, he did write that pre-Källgren. For all I know he could be jumping through a tulip patch today.

Maple Leafs see Stars, brother battles, and a fantastic debuted | by: Seldo

There’s more to the Auston Matthews suspension than meets the eye | by: Chris Johnston

Last night, Ovechkin hit goal #767, passing the great Jaromir Jagr for fourth all-time in NHL goals. He is only 34 behind Gordie Howe for second. And from there, it’ll be a lonely trek for a couple years before he reaches Mount Gretzky 93 goals further away. Ovechkin is currently 36 years old, meaning he would have to score 30+ goals until he’s 40 to hit the mark, or 40+ goals at ages 37, 38, and 39 to get there. He’s at a 51-goal pace this season alone with 37 in the bank. If he can stay above 40 for the next couple years, I say he does it.

One interesting thing to think about ahead of the trade deadline is former KHL players who have terminated their contracts in recent weeks. There are many non-Russians and Russians as well who have given up playing in that league that may be worth looking into.

There was a trade yesterday between rivals Colorado and Minnesota. Tyson Jost and Nico Sturm swapped teams in a move that gave the Avs more cap space to go get Claude Giroux.

And finally, speaking of Russian defectors, Alexander Mogilny reached 1000 points 18 years ago yesterday in 2004. Yes, that Leafs team everyone always talks about being so good is old enough to get a full driver’s license in Ontario now.