Game one in the series between the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets is now in the books, after a 2-0 victory by the Blue Jackets.
After the first two periods which were about even, Blue Jackets struck early in the third and the Maple Leafs had little response to a suffocating defense as the Blue Jackets scored on a empty net to the seal the victory.
If there were any bright spots last night, it starts with the play of Auston Matthews and his linemates, when the Leafs did look close to striking for a goal, it was this line that led the offence. They had a couple of significant cycles but the puck just wouldn’t go in, Matthews shot off the cross bar being the best chance by any Leafs player all night.
Another positive was the play of Nick Robertson, as a 18 year old rookie playing in first NHL game in the playoffs no less, he didn’t look out of place. He had two shots in his approximately 12 minutes of icetime. He seemed poised, his play with and without the puck looked as good as you could hope for given the pressure of the moment.
The Maple Leafs third line as a whole also had its moments where they played well, which is another positive on a night where there wasn’t too much to be positive about.
Frederik Andersen also had a good night, even with the goal against. He kept the game close when the Blue Jackets had the Maple Leafs hemmed in the defensive zone. Yes, the goal against is one he would probably want back but overall, his game was solid which is a good sign as we head into game two.
Now for areas of improvement, time and time again there is a debate on if the Maple Leafs need more grit in their game. After game one, I would have to agree but not in the rockem, sockem type some clamour for.
There needs to be mental resolve to fight through tough defensive games like last night, when the ice isn’t there fight for it. Columbus dictated the play from puck drop to the final buzzer it was a boring grind it out style of play that stymies the Maple Leafs always. In sport as in life, you make your own luck. The Maple Leafs didn’t do enough as a collective to win.
This type of mental resolve needs to come from the top of the roster, and no two players stood out for their lack of play then Marner and Tavares.
The line of Tavares/Marner/Mikheyev left much to be desired. They weren’t effective all night, Marner’s tendencies to pass first and shoot second took him completely out of the game, as the Blue Jackets took away his passing lanes which made him look uncomfortable at times as he whiffed on a couple of opportunities to shoot.
I don’t know about you, but how many times did you find yourself yelling at the tv for him to shoot?
Tavares, the captain needs to do more as well. Outside of maybe a couple of shots on net, he too left much to be desired. This line can’t be this anemic if the Leafs have any hopes to turn this series around.
I have said this countless times, Marner needs to get to a point where he starts to shoot more which would open more ice for his linemates. Maybe if he expands his tool box, this line won’t go dormat as it did last night.
Being a threat to pass or shoot is what some love about Nylander’s game, it opens up ice as teams have to respect a shot or pass which opens up ice.
Marner needs to be a little more selfish, if a shot is there take it. Ugly goals count just as much as much as the highlight reel goals we are accustomed to. At the end of the day, it might be an ugly goal that turns this series around in the Maple Leafs favour.
Many were left after last night’s game, wanting more and needing to see more from the Maple Leafs two top salary earners.
Game two going tomorrow and one would expect a lot of soul searching if the Maple Leafs want to get back in this series. They aren’t out of the series by no stretch of the imagination, but the Maple Leafs will need to dig deep and find another level in themselves because Columbus isn’t going to give them anything, so if someone isn’t going to give you anything. The Maple Leafs will need to take it.