Alex Bishop, Auston Matthews, Column, justin holl, News & Rumors, Petr Mrazek, Toronto Maple Leafs

Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors: Matthews, Holl, Bishop, Mrazek & Hutch

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll share the good news that Auston Matthews is likely returning for Monday night’s game against the New York Rangers. As well, I’ll share some of the illness and injury reports from the Maple Leafs’ camp. 

Item One: Auston Matthews Will Probably Play on Monday Night

The big news out of the Maple Leafs’ practice on Sunday is that Auston Matthews was wearing a blue sweater and will likely be back in the lineup on Monday against the New York Rangers. Matthews has been practicing and has been engaging almost fully; however, he’s missed the first three games of the season. That situation appears to be over. He practiced fully today and seems to be ready to play against the Rangers. 

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In today’s practice, Matthews took his usual top-line center position, partnering with Mitch Marner and Nick Ritchie. Matthews also was part of the top power-play unit, which likely means he’ll take over Jason Spezza’s place there as well. Things are looking positive for his return.

Related: Maple Leafs 2021-22 Line Combos Starting to Take Shape

Item Two: Justin Holl Isn’t Feeling Well, But It Isn’t COVID-19

It’s funny how COVID-19 has changed the way we look at things. When Justin Holl was noted to be ill, of course he had to take a COVID-19 test. That test fortunately has come back negative; however, he didn’t play in Saturday’s game and might not be ready to go for Monday. In his place, Timothy Liljegren drew into the lineup and made his season debut against the Senators. He had an assist and played well.

Justin Holl is questionable to play tomorrow. He’s still under the weather.
Just a maintenance day for Jake Muzzin. https://t.co/LgEGRu5EuD

Holl has been a workhorse for the Maple Leafs this season by playing over 20 minutes in each of the first two games. Right now, his status for Monday’s game is up in the air. However, after Monday there’s a space in the schedule until the team plays the San Jose Sharks on Friday night. Here’s guessing Liljegren will get another chance to play in Holl’s place.

Item Three: Jake Muzzin Didn’t Practice on Sunday

Jake Muzzin didn’t practice on Sunday; however, it was reported that his absence was simply a maintenance day for the 32-year-old defenseman. 

Item Four: What a Night for Young Goalie Alex Bishop

If you’re a Maple Leafs’ fan and a goalie who’s probably had dreams of playing in the NHL, what a night you probably had during Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada game against the Senators. The young University of Toronto goalie suddenly was sitting on the bench with his home team after Maple Leafs’ goalie 1B Petr Mrazek suffered a groin injury during Thursday’s game. The team had to sign Bishop to an amateur tryout because they were simply out of salary-cap space and it was impossible to call up Michael Hutchinson from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.

The night wasn’t lost on Bishop. After the game, the young goalie said that it was “a great experience.” Bishop added that during warmup “the flash of the cameras was pretty surreal. It’s pretty distracting, but cool to get in there and take some shots. It’s not lost on me that this is a pretty rare opportunity. I’m pretty lucky to be cheering for my hometown team.” 

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Although it was a special evening for Bishop, who’s to say it might not happen again? Ask David Ayres, who got his chance two seasons ago when both Mrazek (who then played for the Carolina Hurricanes) and James Reimer were injured against the Maple Leafs. It was Ayres’ 15 minutes of fame. Bishop has been Toronto’s emergency goalie for a few years. Could he play against the Maple Leafs next time? (from “Bishop gets a night as a Leaf, Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun, 16/10/21).

Item Five: Petr Mrazek Will Miss About Two Weeks

Speaking of Mrazek, it was reported that his groin injury will cause him miss at least two weeks. Mrazek suffered the injury on the last shot of the second period in Thursday’s game against the Senators and he’ll likely miss most of October. It looks as if early in the season plans to balance the goalie duties between Mrazek and Jack Campbell are out the window. Campbell will likely play most of the games going forward with the odd game given to former backup goalie Michael Hutchinson.

Item Six: Michael Hutchinson Re-Called to the Maple Leafs

In Mrazek’s place, the Maple Leafs recalled Hutchinson on an emergency basis. Hutchinson will serve as Campbell’s backup but might not see any action if Mrazek does return in two weeks. That said, there are back-to-back games coming on Friday and Saturday this week, so we’ll see how Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe plays it.

Michael Hutchinson Toronto Maple Leafs
Michael Hutchinson, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Hutchinson has been quite good in his back-up role. Last season, in eight games with the team, the veteran goalie went 4-2-1 with a goals-against-average of 2.42 and a save percentage of .919. He might not be to many Maple Leafs’ fans’ taste, however he hasn’t done a bad job in his role with the team.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs’ top line without Matthews hasn’t been living up to expectations. It will be good to see how both John Tavares and Marner do when Matthews comes back. To my eye, both have been playing well enough. It used to be that Marner helped get Tavares off the schneid; however, perhaps this season it will be William Nylander’s job.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Mikheyev, Biega, Gabriel & Bunting

It’s Nick Ritchie who hasn’t seemed to get untracked yet. Is there a chance that Alex Kerfoot moves to the top-line left-wing spot. Kerfoot did score the winning goal last night and added an assist. We’ll see soon.

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