Jack Campbell returns to LA as the NHL’s man of the moment, but can he continue for the Leafs?

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LOS ANGELES — When Los Angeles Kings head coach Todd McLellan spent part of Tuesday trying to illustrate the importance of a good goaltender to a team’s fortunes. the NHL, he pointed out some practical truths.

On the one hand, said McLellan, a goaltender is the only player who, ideally, stays on the ice for the regular 60 minutes and beyond, if necessary.

“We never talk about it,” McLellan said, “but he plays every minute of every game.”

On the other hand, the presence of a goalkeeper is essential to the success of any skating.

“We wouldn’t have practice if we didn’t have two,” said McLellan. “Everyone would stop hockey. They are so important.

But beyond the importance of keeping minutes and maintaining shooters’ interest in practice ice, McLellan, speaking ahead of Wednesday’s Maple Leafs-Kings game at Staples Center, listed another way which a masked man can affect his team. Like a commanding baseball pitcher whose excellence seems to support the team behind him, McLellan said that a goalie of a certain level – and he was speaking, in particular, of LA’s Jonathan Quick – can do so much more. than simply stopping the washers.

“The way they behave in the locker room, the way they react to situations, the way they behave with their teammates. Are they buying or selling what the coaches are trying to apply? It’s very important, ”said McLellan. “And these Hall of Fame keepers have that. They have a way of unifying your group and getting the message across together. Quickie is that guy.

With two Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy and two Jennings Trophies, Quick, at 35, is certainly building a resume that will one day deserve the consideration of the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee, not to mention respect for his peers.

“He’s just the right man,” said Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell of Quick, who Campbell apprenticed under four seasons with the Kings.

But while Campbell is much earlier in his NHL journey – he started 93 career games versus 666 for Quick – the Maple Leafs goaltender can argue that he is the man of the moment in the league. Whether you believe in the concept of the revenge game or not, Campbell is entering what appears to be his first start in Los Angeles as a remarkably well-living member of the Maple Leafs. Just under two years since the Kings sent him to Toronto on a deal before the deadline, it goes without saying that Campbell took advantage of his new opportunity to establish his credentials as a number one starter. certifiable. Of the 35 NHL goaltenders who have played at least 40 games since the day Campbell arrived in Toronto, no one has a better save percentage than Campbell’s .929. No one has a better goals-against average than Campbell’s 2.04.

Not that it would be a good idea to mention those numbers to Quick, who spent part of Tuesday answering a question about his own impressive stats this season noting how little attention he pays to the most statistics.

“People who pay attention to these numbers don’t watch the games, or they don’t really have a good idea of ​​what’s going on in the games,” said Quick, who mixed up a few curses for good measure. “Whether these numbers are good or bad, beware of guys who really like to talk about these numbers. They usually don’t know what they are talking about.

The only numbers that matter, Quick said, are wins. And on that front, Campbell is doing pretty well too. He has 10 wins in 15 starts this season. Only Frederik Andersen, the ex-Leaf who won 11 times in Carolina, has more.

And when it comes to the idea that Campbell might have an effect beyond the saves he makes – as hard as it is to quantify, there are those who suggest Campbell’s famous off-ice behavior is helping the Maple. Leafs overcome the endurance test of an 82-game grind.

“(Campbell) was awesome. He plays really good hockey. Obviously there is really fun around the rink. He’s pretty light, a goofy guy. But his performance on the ice was excellent. As a team, we enjoyed playing in front of him, ”said Toronto defenseman Jake Muzzin, the former King who is scheduled to play his first game at Staples Center with the Maple Leafs on Wednesday. “(Campbell’s lightness) is nice because it’s a long season. There is a lot of hockey. So you can’t be too tense and too serious all the time. If you don’t like it, it can be a long year for some guys. Having guys guarding the light around the rink is always nice and it helps. “

One thing that hasn’t been kept light, of course, is Campbell’s workload. When he takes to the ice on Wednesday, he will be on pace for 62 starts this season, a high number for a guy who has never started more than 25 in an NHL campaign. While Toronto has generally been loath to use a No.2 option in net saves for back-to-back games since Petr Mrazek injured his groin more than three weeks ago, Keefe said he and his staff were considering to give Campbell a night off in a non-consecutive situation right from this Western swing, which continues Friday in San Jose and Monday in Anaheim. Rookie Joseph Woll just made a 20-save shutout in Sunday’s win over the Islanders, which certainly makes things easier.

“Before Joe even played his game the other night, we talked about how good it would be to get a non-consecutive game from our alternate goalie,” Keefe said. “So we’re going to keep watching this. Obviously, Joe’s performance the other night didn’t hurt that cause.

If you look at it from Quick’s perspective, the cause was also not weakened by Woll’s performance in his NHL debut, in which he allowed four goals but achieved the ultimate goal – winning. the 5-4 victory over the Sabers.

“You win 6-5, you feel good after the game. Regardless of the score, Quick said. “You lose 1-0, you leave the game thinking about what you could have done differently. The more you play in this league, the more you realize that is what it is about.

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