This time of year, we saw a familiar face during the second period in Los Angeles.
Jack Campbell, the Stars’ backup goalie with a number of wins in the Stanley Cup playoffs, suddenly appeared in Dallas jerseys with ice hockey pads. His upper body was formed just perfectly, complete with the odd hip movement and intentional scratch of the area between his eyebrows. He even had a little mustache for emphasis, although as the third period began, it had quickly dissolved into fuzz.
But that was something worth remembering for a second: Campbell, now with the Knights, is less than two years removed from playing for the Stars. It was a weird moment, to say the least. Campbell had never before been traded for a goaltender. How could the Stars let him go? Were the Rangers planning to pay him anyway? Was he playing for a no-trade clause? Just how Toronto surely felt after they signed him this past summer.
The usually quiet Dave Scatchard then burst into laughter upon seeing Campbell in his new blue and white threads. Even within the Star Wars references, there was a reference to the Fortress of Solitude, a previously destroyed galaxy where everyone speaks the same language.
Campbell himself didn’t make anything of his new surroundings, so he simply stopped the game. He told the TV producers, “Obviously, the last time I was playing in Dallas, this game’s on.” Now you could say that words are worthless, but Campbell didn’t really say anything.
At one point, he grabbed a Leafs fan sitting in the end of the stands and walked him into the penalty box. The Maple Leafs did not think this was a good idea. Two one-game suspensions later, I suppose Campbell didn’t really want the rest of the NHL to see how friendly he was to the fans.
And yet, Wilson tried another weird move when he brought in Nic Dowd to play on the Toronto power play. After all, he was still having trouble scoring goals. Also, Toronto already had Frans Nielsen as a centre on the man advantage.
However, Dowd’s arrival on the power play had suddenly made them a unit more fearsome than ever. Torrey Mitchell slipped into a Montreal uniform and appeared as if he had fallen out of the upper deck of the Bell Centre, so he could lay five after nearly two years. Clarke MacArthur bounced around Montreal with his hard slap shot, now with one of the wisest coaches of all time. Drew Stafford slalomed between Bruin defenders on his way to one of the great early goals of the season.
This was the question every Leafs fan raised with the acquisition of John Tavares last summer: “Why do we need another point-producer?” They really needed a goal-producer, but their mercurial sniper is on vacation and their defence-first play could take some rumblings.
And now, in his second game on the ice after being injured midway through the first period of his first, Tavares registered a goal and two assists in a 7-4 win against the hapless Kings.
Very few people have ever gone on long NHL career after scoring only a single point in his first three games. That will no doubt become history on Saturday night when Tavares is the first player to play every game during his first season of a two-year contract without producing a single point.
Good. He needed to give them something else to shout about. Now that he’s begun, we’re likely to hear from more Leafs, teammates, fans and coaches. Maple Leafs games really never get boring.
Here’s hoping that Tavares does his worst while playing for a set of tattered Maple Leafs uniforms. I don’t know what he’ll do when his full pads show up. I don’t even know if he’ll be able to survive in them, given that his bones are still in Oklahoma and he’s now one season into a three-year contract.
But can you blame him? Try this on for size: “On my first year of a three-year deal I don’t have one point. So let’s be really good tonight.”
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