Leafs’ opening-night win was the result of a blue-and-white-collar effort

Nothing like a win to kick things off. Some talking points following the Maple Leafs’ 2-1 win Wednesday night over the Montreal Canadiens.

1. Jack Campbell was terrific. That’s important on so many levels, building confidence that last season’s 17-3-2 record was no fluke. He held the fort in the first period before his teammates came to life.

“We came out pretty slow,” said William Nylander. “I mean, slow to get our legs going in that first period, but Jack was on fire tonight.”

Campbell stopped 31 of 32 shots to earn his sixth career victory against the Canadiens.

Petr Mrazek goes Thursday night in Ottawa.

2. The Leafs put in a blue-collar effort. It wasn’t a pretty game by any means. Michael Bunting made a pest of himself. Jake Muzzin didn’t let anyone get pushed around. Justin Holl saved a sure goal while killing a penalty, with a kick save. The Leafs held a one-goal lead for 19 minutes after Nylander broke the 1-1 tie early in the third. They gritted out a win.

“Guys worked and competed; it was a tight game right ’till the end,” head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Happy that we found our way to be on the right side of it, of course.”

3. The penalty kill was perfect. David Kämpf led the way there (3:21 of short-handed time on ice), winning faceoffs and clearing pucks.

4. Mitch Marner took four shots. Twice, he might have passed instead of shooting. Passing is his game, creating opportunities for others. But this year he wants to score, maybe hardened by the criticism that he didn’t score in the playoffs. Credit to him for working on his shot. But let’s hope doesn’t forget passing is what sets him apart.

5. Pierre Engvall’s nickname is Seabiscuit. So his teammates have named him after a horse. Giraffe seems more fitting. No matter, he put in a solid performance, both physically and offensively. His line, with Kämpf and Ondrej Kaše has some chemistry going, too. Not bad for a guy who might not have even been in the lineup if not for injuries to both Auston Matthews and Ilya Mikheyev.

Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell stopped 31 of 32 shots Wednesday night, including this point shot from Canadiens defenceman Jeff Petry with Nick Suzuki in front.

6. Weird fact of the night: Marner got an assist on Nylander’s winner, but not a plus, even though the goal came at even strength. Marner passed to Morgan Rielly, then headed to the bench. Rielly passed to Nylander, who came on for Marner. Nylander scored, fooling Jake Allen with a little fake.

That’s it for now. I’m in Ottawa for Thursday’s game. Let’s not forget to get Mailbaggin’. If you’ve GOT A QUESTION, email me at askkevinmcgran@gmail.com and I’ll answer it in the next Mailbag.


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