Four days away from kicking off their postseason run, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe didn't hesitate when asked who will start in goal for Game 1 against the Montreal Canandiens.
"Jack Campbell will be in for us."
The goaltender has exceeded the team's expectations in his first full (if you can call it a full) season with the Maple Leafs. Thrust into a starter's role after Frederik Andersen was sidelined with a knee injury, Campbell didn't give the team any reason to take him out of the lineup.
"It's his results that he has gotten for us in both wins and saves," Keefe said. "The confidence he's built for himself and then in turn the confidence our team has in him he's done a terrific job and that's his part of it."
The other part is Andersen looking to find his game after missing the last two months with a knee injury. He made his return on May 12 and appeared rusty. Andersen made 24 saves on 28 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators.
"It's a tough decision we had to make with Frederik," Keefe said. "He's been a big part of our team and has been the guy in the playoffs and the circumstances around him make it a tough as it relates to Fred."
Andersen is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
Campbell set an NHL record for consecuticvew wins to start a season with 11. He eventually finished with a record of 17-3-2 and a .921 save percentage and two shutouts.
Like Andersen, Campbell had his own battles with injury. A lower-body injury sidelined the goaltender for a month. He made his return from the injury in spectacular fashion with a 30-save shutout performance against the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 27.
Campbell didn't get out of that game unscathed as he'd miss another three weeks with the same ailment. He returned for good on Mar. 20, one day after Andersen's last game for nearly two months.
Andersen finished the season with a 13-8-3 record and a career-low .895 save percentage.
The instability in goal prompted the Leafs to add to their depth in the position. They acquired goaltender David Rittich from the Calgary Flames in exchange for a third-round NHL Draft pick in 2022. Calgary also retained 50 per cent of Rittich's $2.75 million salary cap hit.
Rittich has a 1-1-1 record in four game with am .888 save percentage with the Leafs.
Toronto's fourth goaltender, Michael Hutchinson, had a 4-2-1 record this season with a .919 save percentage.
New Look Power Play
Before practice started in earnest on Sunday, the special teams went to work with a two unique power play units the team has not deployed this season.
The first unit consisted of defenseman Rasmus Sandin with forwards Zach Hyman, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and Joe Thornton. The second unit had defenseman Morgan Rielly with forwards John Tavares, William Nylander Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds.
"We probably would have gone to it earlier had Hyman been available to us," Keefe said. "We just want to give ourselves increased options as we go into a playoff series."
Toronto had the strongest power play through the first couple of months only to see it struggle mightily in March, April and May. They finished the season an even 20 percent for 20th in the league.
Hyman set to return, Nash to debut
Zach Hyman will return to the lineup after he suffered an MCL sprain in his knee on Apr. 18. He occupied the first-line left wing spot alongside Matthews and Marner at practice.
Riley Nash, acquired in April in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets, will be ready for Game 1. He occupied the third-line center spot with Ilya Mikheyev and Alex Kerfoot on the wing.
Zach Bogosian took part in his first practice since he suffered a shoulder injury on Apr. 20. He skated in a non-contact jersey but did take some reps on the penalty kill. He's trending toward a return at some point in the series.