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Maple Leafs' Campbell closes in on a perfect 10; 'This was always in him as a goaltender'

Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell is looking for his 10th consecutive win when Toronto plays host to Montreal on Wedenesday night.
Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell is looking for his 10th consecutive win when Toronto plays host to Montreal on Wedenesday night.

One of the more intriguing decisions for Kyle Dubas in the coming days could be whether to add goaltending depth.

If only the Maple Leafs general manager could peer into a crystal ball and learn that the health of Jack Campbell won’t be an issue for the next several weeks.

In that case, there would be little argument that could be made against giving Campbell the lion’s share of the Leafs starts. And Dubas wouldn’t have to give anything up to acquire another goalie, even if it’s a draft pick, prior to the National Hockey League trade deadline on Monday at 3 p.m.

What was clear, as the Leafs travelled home from Calgary on Tuesday in advance of playing host to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, is that what’s happening with Campbell in net couldn’t be working out much better.

Days off between starts have allowed the netminder to properly manage a lower-body problem, and when Campbell is in the crease again, it will be with an eye to setting a Leafs record.

As a result of the Leafs’ 5-3 win in Calgary against the Flames on Monday night, Campbell tied Felix Potvin, Jacques Plante and John Ross Roach for the longest winning streak for Leafs goalies in franchise history, stretching his run of success to nine games. Like Campbell, Potvin, in 1993-94, did it in his first nine decisions of the season.

“He’s battling his ass off out there,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said of Campbell. “He is battling right until the very end. He has been great, he has been dealing with injuries.

“He has had extended periods of time off and it hasn’t fazed him. He has come back in the net and kept going where he left off. It has been fun to watch that happen.”

Campbell’s save percentage sits at .944, and the victory in Calgary was just the second time this season he allowed as many as three goals in one game. The confidence in the 29-year-old is obvious in the way he sets for just about every shot that finds its way to the Leafs net.

The overall performance of Campbell, and the steadiness of third-stringer Michael Hutchinson, has allowed Frederik Andersen plenty of breathing room in his own recovery from a lower-body injury. Andersen hasn’t played since March 19. In eight games since, the Leafs are 7-0-1.

Among those watching Campbell’s dominance with keen interest is Mike Futa, who was in the Los Angeles Kings’ front office when the team acquired Campbell from the Dallas Stars in 2016.

“None of this surprises me, because this was always in him as a goaltender,” Futa told the Toronto Sun on Tuesday. “He comes to a major market (in a trade with the Leafs in February 2020), all the pressure in the world, and he has been lights out. He doesn’t want to let his teammates down. He knows what it would mean to win in the city of Toronto. He is supportive of Freddie, and I think it’s good to allow Freddie to get himself back and confident and healthy, because Jack can carry the ball.

“Sometimes Jack pushes himself so hard, and he has to stay healthy too. When you start (tying) Maple Leafs records, that’s special, with the history.”

The NHL record for the longest winning streak in a season by a goalie is 14 games, accomplished four times. Most recently, Sergei Bobrovsky did it with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2016-17, following Jonas Hiller (Anaheim Ducks, 2013-14) and Tom Barrasso (Pittsburgh Penguins, 1992-93).

Tiny Thompson set the record in 1929-30 with the Boston Bruins.

Campbell’s nine-game run is the longest active streak. Andersen is not expected to be out for the long term, and if we were in Dubas’ seat, that would bring us off the temptation to trade for another goalie.

Still, it’s crucial that Campbell remains healthy. If not, he can’t be aptly replaced.

“Just focus on next shot and having fun, that’s the biggest thing,” Campbell said. “Focusing on the bigger picture and getting a win, that’s more important than giving up a couple of goals.”

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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