Photo Credit: © John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Do we see Jack Campbell in Game Four?

It’s probably a tad ridiculous to talk about Game Four before we’ve even got a whiff of Game Three, but my business card says planner, so that’s kinda where my mind goes. You might have excitedly noticed the Leafs are going to play on both Thursday and Friday. Two days of Leafs hockey sounds great. The one part we haven’t dealt with from that is typically that means goaltenders are going to split the games. And now we head down the road of processing exactly what that means.

Why we should see Campbell

Hoping in the way back machine to 2013, we find a Eric Tulsky article explaining why starting goaltenders two nights in a row is never a good idea.

Give the full article a read, but here is a key takeaway…

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 I did a similar study but restricting things to games where a team was on the second half of a back-to-back, so that we could compare the instances where they started a goalie who played in the game before to the instances where they started a rested goalie (data through Thursday’s games):

Team playing back-to-back Games started Saves made Shots faced Save percentage
Goalie played previous game 97 2340 2624 .892
Goalie rested previous game 106 2719 2982 .912

Rested goalies playing behind a tired team had the exact same .912 save percentage as Kurt found overall for rested goalies — which presumably means that rested goalies behind a rested team were also at .912, and that the team’s rest has no impact on the goalie’s save percentage. The entire 0.020 difference would then be due to goalie fatigue.

So there you have it, someone who is much smarter than almost all of us is confirming playing Andersen is a bad idea.

Why this favours Columbus

Up until now the Blue Jackets have been using their statistically worse goaltender. Elvis Merzlikins brings a .923 save percentage over 33 games to the table. His all situation GSAA is 12.1, and arguably his hot streak is what put the Blue Jackets into the situation where they were the 9th seed, instead of whatever the hell Buffalo is.

The Blue Jackets essentially have a hot goaltender now, and a goaltender who was hot for them four months ago. This seems like a good situation for them, and it seems highly likely they won’t trot out Korpisalo in both games.

What do the Leafs have in Campbell?

All of 2019-20:

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SV% 0.904 44TH (OUT OF 58)
GSAA -4.16 40TH
HDSV% 0.761 56TH
XGA/60 2.35 10TH
REBOUNDS/60 3.64 35TH

Since Campbell joined the Leafs:

SV% 0.915 22ND (OUT OF 51)
GSAA 0.52 23RD
HDSV% 0.815 25TH
XGA/60 2.57 19TH
REBOUNDS/60 4.76 42ND

So Campbell wasn’t exactly Merzlikins but he did pretty well in front of some Leafs teams with bluelines even worse off than the current Muzzin departure. In his one game against Columbus this year, Jack had a .893 save percentage. That came when Campbell was still on the Kings, and if you haven’t noticed, the Kings were bad this year, so don’t write Campbell off. And if all else fails, look at those numbers from his time with the Leafs again. They are generally comforting.

What’s likely to happen

Assuming the Leafs win Game Three, I think there is a greater interest in going with Campbell in Game Four than starting Andersen. Ditto if Andersen has a rough Game Three win or lose. In the event that Andersen looks good in Game Three and the Leafs lose, well, that’s a different story and there might be an appetite to go all in on Andersen, even if the numbers point to it being a bad idea.

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What we have seen so far is that in the Rangers and Hurricanes series both teams opted to go with a different goaltender in Game Three for that back to back after sticking with the same goaltenders for Games 1&2. The Canes had the flexibility of a two game advantage, and the Rangers honestly could have benefited from the roster shakeup anyway. Of course neither one was a true backup, and it was more of a 1A/1B situation, but nevertheless, it’s the precedent.

The situation for the Leafs and Blue Jackets may wind up being different, but the evidence remains the same, and the reality is that we should probably see Jack Campbell in Game Four.