The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Columbus Blue Jackets come into game two with very different “keys to the game”. Columbus needs to continue their momentum from the last game and shut down the Leafs consistently, limit them from breaking through their wall on defense and dominate them in the neutral zone. On the other side, the Leafs need to find a way to break-through and dominate in all three zones. Don’t stoop to their level, use their high-flying offensive weapons to wear down their defenses.
The Leafs clearly realized they needed to make changes because this team was much different than the team that showed up Sunday. Right out of the gate Kyle Clifford – Who registered only 3:21 time on ice last game – Crushed Columbus defenceman Dean Kukan into the boards. This dominance continued as half-way through the period, the Leafs lead in shots (12-4) and hits (8-7). The Leafs were evidently wearing down the Blue Jackets, forcing them to commit 2 penalties.
As well, one of the key differences was the Leafs defense group. Seemingly every time Columbus would rush into the Leafs zone, they were cut-off before they could start. Then, they’d corral the puck and start a rush going the other way. Unlike in game one, the Leafs feet were under them right from that start and Columbus couldn’t keep up.
After the first, the shots were 15-6 and it was evident the Leafs were dominant. Leading the Blue Jackets in Offensive zone time (9:27 to 6:11) and in shots from the slot (6-3).
The dominance didn’t end after the first, the Leafs continued to relentlessly hem the Jackets into their zone. At the mid-way point in the frame, the shots were 23-8 in favor of Toronto. That’s 8-2 on the period as a whole. Once again, Columbus could barely make it past the opposing blue line without being stripped of the puck and find themselves going back the other way. They were also taking more and more penalties
Finally, after what seemed like forever… The floodgates opened. Rushing into the zone Matthews passes it over to Zach Hyman, he puts a hard pass in the direction of Matthews and he tips it in. 1-0 Leafs. After over 30 minutes of pure domination from the blue & white, they get not only their first of the game but their first of the series. Fittingly, it comes from the stick of Auston Matthews who was undoubtedly the Leafs best skater in game one and probably game two as well. Nothing much of substance happens to finish off the period besides more of the same.
Second period ends with the shots at a staggering 29-12 on the game, 14-6 on the period.
As has been the case all game, the Leafs continued to dominate. Not to the same extent but there was very little room to question who was coming out on top. Less than five minutes in, Leafs captain John Tavares gets behind the defense and grabs a loose puck in the neutral zone and scores on the breakaway.
The game was fairly back-and-forth from here until Morgan Rielly scored an empty netter to put the final nail in the coffin. Unfortunately, this came after a scary injury to Leafs star defenceman Jake Muzzin who was cross-checked from behind and hit his head on the knee of Oliver Bjorkstrand.
⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Nick Foligno
⭐️⭐️ – David Savard
⭐️ – Joonas Korpisalo
⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Frederik Andersen
⭐️⭐️ – Auston Matthews
⭐️ – John Tavares
Tweets of the game:
Toronto was in desperate need of a game where they put their foot on the pedal and didn’t let up, this was a great example of that. I said it multiple times throughout this recap but the Leafs continued to dominate from puck drop to the final buzzer. he players you need to show up – showed up. After the last game, captain John Tavares said “I have to do a better job of trying to find ways to break them down and create the opportunities and looks that we need.” He certainly fulfilled his end of the bargain, registering 8 shots on goal and leading both teams in expected goals.
Columbus needed to lock-down defensively and shut the Leafs offense out but were unable to accomplish it. They did have some bright spots though, Korpisalo stopped 36 of 38 shots for a save percentage of .947%. Also, their big guys showed up: Foligno, Atkinson, Wennberg, and Bjorkstrand leading in expected goals. David Savard was able to shut the Leafs down quite well, throwing three hits, blocking four shots, and had an even +/- while registering over 22 minutes of TOI. He was a stand-out on a blue-line that left a lot to be desired.
The next game will be a tie-breaker and since one team will walk away with the power of elimination, it will surely be a hard-fought battle. Will we see a game more similar to game one or two? Let us know!
Prayers for Jake Muzzin🙏🏻