Maple Leafs' Jack Campbell must stay 'even keel' amid heavy workload

Watch as Sportsnet's Shawn McKenzie is joined by Chris Johnston following the Maple Leafs practice Sunday, they discuss the injury status of goalie's Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell, the recent play of forward Alex Galchenyuk and more.

TORONTO -- Now that Jack Campbell has control of the Toronto Maple Leafs' crease, his coach wouldn’t mind seeing him go a little easier on himself.

Campbell was critical of his own performance in two recent victories, including saying, “I just didn’t have it tonight” after his teammates rallied for a 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

There can be limitations to that kind of internal standard, especially with goaltending partner Frederik Andersen sidelined by a lower-body injury and a busy stretch of games on deck. Campbell has made three straight starts for the Leafs -- all victories -- and will likely shoulder the heaviest workload of his NHL career in the coming weeks.

“I think you’ve got to be even keel, especially the more you play,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following a rare Sunday practice. “You’ve got to recognize there’s going to be ups and downs.”

Campbell allowed three goals on 20 shots to the Oilers, but Keefe pointed out that he still played a huge role in Toronto’s comeback -- stopping Connor McDavid on a Grade A chance late in the third period before staring down Darnell Nurse on a 2-on-1.

“One of those goes in, we’re leaving the game without any points and we’re disappointed here today. You make those saves, all of a sudden you get to overtime and get a bounce and win a game in overtime, and the team is feeling really good about itself today,” Keefe said. “So there’s something to be said about that: When it’s time to make the save, you make it, no matter how you’re playing, and he did that for us last night so he’s got no reason to be hard on himself today.”

The Leafs were in need of some stabilizing performances when Campbell returned to the lineup last weekend and have maintained their place atop the North Division after getting them.

The 29-year-old is playing some of the best hockey of his pro career, going 6-0-0 this season with a .945 save percentage. But he’s not one to rest on his laurels, nor blame his defencemen, say, after letting Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl connect on a gorgeous goal.

“I mean, he’s such a great guy,” William Nylander said of Campbell. “He’s won a couple games for us by himself, so all we can do is get behind him and help him win yesterday’s game.

“But for the most part he’s been great and he doesn’t need to get down on himself. We’re here for him.”

Campbell is a former 11th overall draft pick who took eight years to carve out a regular NHL job. He’s acknowledged having to learn when to let himself off the hook in the process.

The Leafs had him sit out of Sunday’s practice for maintenance and were urging him to clear his mind as well.

“He’s a tough critic on himself,” said defenceman Jake Muzzin, a former teammate in Los Angeles. “But if you guys know Soup that’s just kind of the way he is. He put it on himself, but it’s definitely a team thing, not just Soupy obviously.”

With the regular season series against Edmonton due to wrap up on Monday night, the Leafs are focused on doing a better job against McDavid and Draisaitl. They did a pretty good job of taking the middle of the ice away from the Oilers during Saturday’s game and still saw those two combine for five points.

“We’ve got to be better. We’ve got to do a better job,” Keefe said. “When you make a mistake when they’re out there, they’re that much more dangerous -- it’s not just one guy that you’ve got to contend with. You saw the way that they paired up on the Draisaitl goal.

“I mean I don't know (if) there’s many players in the league that can make that pass and I don’t know that there’s many players in the league that can make that shot.”

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