The Toronto Maple Leafs have a new No. 1 goalie — at least, they should.
Fresh off a 2-0 win over Calgary on Saturday, boosting his 2021 record to a perfect 4-0, Jack Campbell has proven that he’s more than capable of being Toronto’s full-time starting netminder.
Four games is an extremely tiny sample size, but let’s face it, the Leafs play a much different — and much better — game when Campbell is in goal as opposed to when starter Frederik Andersen is between the pipes.
Entering Thursday night’s clash against the Ottawa Senators, the 29-year-old Campbell has a goals-against average of 1.00, a .965 save percentage and two shutouts.
Andersen is 13-8-2 this NHL season with a rather pedestrian 2.91 goals against and a dreadful .897 save percentage.
There is no way the Leafs deliberately play differently, or with less enthusiasm, when Andersen is in net, but there seems to be an infectious energy that rolls throughout Toronto’s lineup when Campbell has the crease.
But the question has to be asked, do the Maple Leafs subconsciously take on the demeanour of their starting goalie?
Andersen is a stoic and unflappable presence when he is protecting Toronto’s net.
In good times, and in bad, the Danish puck stopper does not share his emotions.
There are no eye-catching fist pumps and exuberant celebrations after he wins a game, and we never see Freddie smash his stick on the crossbar after allowing a bad goal or following a playoff loss — something of which fans have had too much over the last four years.
Campbell, on the other hand, offers the occasional confidence-building wink to his teammates when things get a little hair-raising in Toronto’s own end, and thanks his teammates for their defensive help with a stick tap to their shin pads or pants.
When head coach Sheldon Keefe eyeballs the team’s upcoming schedule, he will notice a busy road ahead, with 24 games in 49 days, which may ultimately force him to even the load between his two goalies.
The knock against Campbell, who has a career record of 27-27-6, is that he has never been a true No. 1 goalie in the NHL while Andersen is a proven starter who is one victory away from his 150th as a Maple Leaf — the fourth-highest total in the history of the storied franchise.
But Keefe should give the net to Campbell more often than not for at least the next couple of weeks for two simple reasons.
First, the native of Port Huron, Mich., is in the zone and Keefe knows that in the ultra-competitive North Division a hot goalie can translate into a lengthy winning streak that can go a long way to securing first place and home-ice advantage in the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Secondly, thanks to a lingering lower-body injury, Andersen has not been his usual solid self lately — going 1-5-0 in his last six starts and has allowed four goals in four of those contests.
However, I must admit the recent talk about the possibility of Toronto trading Andersen (who will be a free agent this summer) does not make much sense.
Campbell, as I have mentioned, hasn’t been given the baton and told to run with it before, and he too has dealt with his own recent injury woes.
Plus, having two goalies that can give the Maple Leafs a chance to win every night, especially come playoff time, is not something the team should be tinkering with.
Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.