How the Maple Leafs rank in the Blue Jackets in a potential playoff series


So incredibly close. So different.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets woke up Thursday as potential Round 1 opponents in the proposed (but not yet approved) playoff format of 24 NHL teams, and the game will pit two clubs operating with opposite styles but similar results.

Toronto (36-25-9) and Columbus (33-22-15) both finished an incomplete 2019-20 regular season with 81 points and a percentage of 0.579 points. They also shared their head-to-head games with one win each, but those two slopes were in October – when the jogging pants and group t-shirts were a treat, not my work uniform.

They both fought through tumultuous campaigns ravaged by injuries to key players, and both had scares with unstable goalkeepers who seemed to be on break.

However, this is where the similarities end and the differences begin in what is arguably the most compelling of the eight game carriers on offer.

Why the Maple Leafs will totally win the series

Goals, goals and more goals.

How’s that for a statistic? The Maple Leafs have four stars with a minimum of 59 points. Pierre-Luc Dubois, the best performing jacket, is stuck at 49.

The Leafs have the third best attack in the league, while Columbus is the fourth worst overall and least scary of the 24 teams that will be invited to return. Toronto also has one of the best power games in hockey, at 23.1%; Columbus’ 16.4% power play is the least efficient of the 12 Eastern Conference teams.

There is no question here about identity. This is a classic offensive versus defense confrontation.

And the firepower of Toronto will only be shaken by the good feedback from Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and Ilya Mikheyev. (Winger Andreas Johnsson won’t be ready to play this summer.)

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“Everyone is going to be sloppy,” said Brad Marchand, whose Bruins could face the winner of this streak. “I honestly think that the teams that will come back and look good are the very young teams, teams like Toronto or Tampa, qualified teams that are really high-end.”

Besides offensive skill, the other advantage the Leafs should have is in the net. Columbus goalkeepers Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins have both enjoyed the breakout seasons and have had some juicy salary increases as a result, but this tandem has zero NHL playoff games combined.

Meanwhile, Frederik Andersen, happy and rested, has no load management concerns.

“I’m pretty open to almost anything that could be done to save the season, end the season, and get a Stanley Cup champion,” said Andersen.

Why the Blue Jackets will totally win the series

They’re finally (mostly) healthy, and they’re going to structure and crush you to death.

Who cares if the Blue Jackets had only a 27.6% chance of making the postseason on March 12 (78% of the Leafs)? It was the old reality.

The new reality is that defender # 1 Seth Jones is healthy and impatient, top scorer Oliver Bjorkstrand completely recovered from his ankle surgery and back skating on March 3, Cam Atkinson ready to roll and can -be Josh Anderson too. (Anderson received a rehabilitation period of four to six months after having undergone shoulder surgery on March 2.)

In addition to deploying the fourth most stingy defense in the league and a better punishment unit than that of Toronto, the Blue Jackets are built and conditioned to play a traditional mark of hockey in the playoffs.

Block the shots. Relentlessly destroy under the dots. Complete the checks. Squeak out wins in low score business. Just ask the Tampa Bay Lightning, winner of the 2019 Presidents’ Trophy.

With Sheldon Keefe still to prove, we will also give Columbus the advantage on the bench. Outside the Stanley Cup ring, few coaches shot less in 2019-20 than John Tortorella, with his alignment ravaged by free will and injuries, and his goalkeepers still feel in the spotlight. the NHL.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people in the hockey world, then tell listeners everything they’ve heard and what they think.

In addition, since their upheaval in Round 1 last spring, Columbus now has the mentality of knowing that it can bring down a team that seems more talented on paper. Jackets love being the scrappy underdog with nothing to lose. Between the ears, the pressure will be much stronger on Toronto.

” [We’re] really focused on being over the puck, winning our battles, having good roles, “said Jones.

“If we’re all healthy, we hope we can just take it to another level, surprise people again.” “

The choice

The Blue Jackets are going to push this thing to the limit, but attack and skill prevail. The Maple Leafs survive in five years, win their first playoff series in over 16 years … and have only four rounds left.


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