NHL.com goes behind the numbers to identify key statistics for each of the best eight round qualifying rounds. Today, a look at the game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Toronto Maple Leafs power play tied for fifth in the league with the Tampa Bay Lightning (23.1 percent) this season, but their penalty shot ranked 21st (77 , 7%). The Columbus Blue Jackets’ penalty shot was 12th in the NHL (81.7 percent), and their power play was 27th (16.4 percent). Why is it important? Variable forces could offset the potential advantage of each team in the series, forcing them to rely on the equal strength rating. If so, Toronto holds the advantage with 5 against 5, ranking third in the NHL with 159 goals; Columbus placed 26th with 125.
Video: [email protected]: Marner sets up Matthews power-play explosion
The solid playing of the Maple Leafs 5 against 5 is also evident in their shooting differential, where they placed fifth in the NHL (plus-270) behind the Vegas Golden Knights (plus-621), the Canadiens’ Montreal (plus-595), the Carolina Hurricanes (plus-513) and the Los Angeles Kings (plus-401). This statistic shows that Toronto has, for the most part, created more shooting attempts (missed, blocked, net) than its opponents, which could prove to be the difference in the series if the Columbus SAT (minus 109 , 20th) is no better in this series.
An area where Christopher Columbus seems to hold a goalkeeper advantage; Blue Jackets ranked fifth in NHL with 5-to-5 save percentage (92.8 percent) behind Boston Bruins (93.3 percent), Dallas Stars (93.2 percent), Colorado Avalanche (93.2 percent), and Arizona Coyotes (92.9 percent). They have the luxury of having two goalkeepers (Joonas Korpisalo And Elvis Merzlikins) who could each improve and take on the role of number 1 if called. Merzlikins tied for fifth in save percentage (.923; minimum 20 games) with Pavel Francouz Avalanche, finished fifth on average against (2.35), and had five shutouts as a rookie, tied for second behind Connor Hellebuyck Winnipeg jets (six). If Merzlikins can reproduce his game in the regular season, Columbus could close the gap and possibly even withdraw an upset, similar to last season when he swept the Tampa Bay Lightning in the First Round of the Association of ‘East.
Video: [email protected]: Merzlikins stops 32 shots in 1-0 OT victory
It’s also worth noting that even if the Blue Jackets decide to start the more experienced Korpisalo, their .911 save percentage in the regular season has been better than the Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen(.909), further adding to the argument that Columbus could repel the mighty attack on Toronto.