In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at how some of the players on the team and within the organization are doing. Specifically, I’ll report the last we know about Auston Matthews who has sat the last two games with some sort of injury. Second, I’ll take a quick look at Rasmus Sandin‘s possible return soon. Third, I’ll comment on Mark Giordano’s early impact on the Maple Leafs – small sample size or not.
Fourth, I’ll take a look at Nick Robertson’s season with the AHL’s Marlies and comment on how he’s doing since he’s come back from his early-season injury in early February. Finally, I’ll look outside the Atlantic Division to talk about former-Maple Leafs’ Nazem Kadri’s Colorado Avalanche. That team is having an amazing season.
Item One: Auston Matthews Has Travelled with the Team
Auston Matthews is with the team on the three-game road trip that begins tonight in Tampa Bay against the Lightning. He’s sat out the last two games his team has played with what’s been an “undisclosed” but a minor injury.
Earlier this week, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe reported that Matthews was ”feeling good.” Coach Keefe repeated that “We think this was a pretty minor situation, that he was going to push through pretty quickly. We just have to make sure that we are putting him in a good spot at the appropriate time. It’s a new injury for him, something that he hasn’t dealt with before, so we want to make sure he’s feeling good and comfortable before he gets back in.”
Matthews skated yesterday before the team left for Florida, but it isn’t yet clear whether he’ll play tonight against the Lightning.
Item Two: Rasmus Sandin Should Return to Play Next Week
In news two days ago, there was a report that the Maple Leafs were expecting Rasmus Sandin’s knee injury to be well enough to allow him to return next week.
This week, Sandin has practiced with his team in Toronto and he’ll stay in Canada while his team engages its three-game trip. It’s been a good season, when he’s played, for the young Swede. He’s scored five goals and added 11 assists (for 16 points0 in 51 games he’s played in 2021-22. He’s part of the future of this team.
Item Three: Mark Giordano Has Helped the Maple Leafs
Sure, he hasn’t been here a long time; but, it’s been a good time. He hasn’t played that many minutes thus far – just over 210 with his new team – but the on-ice impact Giordano has had on the team has been really positive. He’s provided stability to the blue-line depth.
Related: Today in Hockey History: April 21
Both the eye test and the analytics suggest an improvement in the team’s defense. In addition, Giordano has jumped into the offense as well with 10 points in 15 games. In the time he’s been with the club, in five-on-five play, Giordano has helped the Maple Leafs control 60.80 percent of the expected goals.
Item Four: Nick Robertson Is Doing Well in the AHL
Nick Robertson’s second pro season didn’t start well. In his first game with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, he registered two assists on October 16. However, the next game Robertson fell while battling for a loose puck and broke his leg. Fortunately, he didn’t need surgery; however, that injury certainly disrupted his season’s plans. It also made Maple Leafs’ fans wonder if he were injury-prone.
However, since Robertson’s return to the Marlies’ active roster on February 2, he’s made up for lost time. He’s been a point-a-game player with 12 goals and 11 assists (for 23 points) in 23 Marlies’ games.
Robertson made good use of his time spent going through the rehabilitation process. He even worked on his mental game, which was also part of his development as a player.
Recently, Robertson noted that he tried to make the most of the three and a half months when he was injured. He noted that he watched AHL games and it just kind of grew on him. He spent time learning “what the [AHL is] looking like, watching a lot of games, and how the league’s played and what I can do to have success.”
Robertson added that “it’s a different vantage point just to watch it without stress or any pressure, just watching the game and just seeing how the flow of the game is.”
He also used his time off the ice to work on building his confidence, which is part of the game that he believes has been a challenge for him in the past and that has been a focus for his development.
He was “Just trying to be as confident as possible and as consistent as possible. Not getting deep down on myself. That’s the main thing I try to work on.”
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
I spend a lot of time writing my posts focusing on the Atlantic Division because that division includes teams the Maple Leafs more regularly. However, there are many other teams in the NHL and some very good ones.
Most Maple Leafs’ fans know that the Florida Panthers, who the Maple Leafs play on Saturday, are an excellent high-scoring team. However, I haven’t written much about the Colorado Avalanche. Currently, the Panthers and the Avalanche are fighting for the Presidents’ Trophy and top seed and home-ice advantage throughout the 2022 NHL playoffs.
As good as the Maple Leafs have been recently the Panthers have been better. They’ve won 10 games in a row and have four lines that can score. The Western Conference Avs also are winning. They have put together a nine-game winning streak and share the same explosiveness on offense.
Obviously, the Maple Leafs won’t play either of these teams during the first round of the playoffs; however, who knows eventually? Wouldn’t the Avs and the Maple Leafs would be a nice Stanley Cup Final series? Wouldn’t it be fun to see Kadri play against his old team?
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf