Jackets Defense Stymie Leafs, Take 1-0 Series Lead

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JAckets Defense Stymie Leafs
TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 02: Alexander Wennberg #10 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by teammate Nick Foligno #71 after Wennberg scored an empty net goal in the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game One of the Eastern Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 02, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

Game one of the qualifying round began Sunday night between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Columbus Blue Jackets. After remaining quiet about who he would start in net, head coach John Tortorella elected to use 26-year-old Joonas Korpisalo. Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe went with his expected lineup, leading to the first NHL game for 18-year-old Nick Robertson. In a tightly contested game, the Jackets defense was able to stymie the Leafs, leading to a 2-0 victory. This victory gives them a 1-0 series lead in this best of five.

Here’s what stood out for me in game one:

Jackets Defense Stymie Leafs, Take 1-0 Series Lead

Columbus Team Defense

A story in the NHL all season, the Blue Jackets defense was once again a major factor in game one. Forcing everything to the outside and clogging up the neutral zone to not allow Toronto any speed through the middle, the Jackets frustrated the Leafs the entire night. Led by Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, the team was able to limit the Leaf’s high danger chances. Along with this, they were able to clear out any rebounds before second-chance scoring opportunities could arise. As straightforward as they come, Columbus competed hard and was physical all game, making it difficult on Toronto.

Goaltending

A key to the series, both goaltenders were locked in for the first two periods. This deadlock led the game to be tied at zero heading into the third. After being forced to stop point-blank chances at both ends of the ice, Anderson ultimately let in the game’s first goal of the night. This goal was eventually the winner off the stick of speedy forward Cam Atkinson at 1:05 of the final period. One Anderson would like to have back, Atkinson raced down the wing before beating him with a quick shot. For Columbus, Korpisalo was steady all game. He made big saves when the team needed him, which led to the franchise’s first playoff shutout in their 20-year history.

Robertson NHL Debut

After scoring 55 goals for the OHL’s Petebrough Petes this season, Robertson made his NHL debut in the postseason. This makes him the first 18-year-old to make his debut in the playoffs since Jarome Iginla in 1996. Using his speed and feistiness, he was able to generate chances early on for the Leafs. Ultimately, Korpisalo robbed him in his first shift. The goaltender was able to stick out his pad on Robertson’s glorious chance, spoiling his attempt for his first NHL goal.

Leafs Big Guns Invisible

One of the keys to the series heading in for the Maple Leafs, the big boys were invisible at times in game one. After an impressive few shifts to begin the game, John Tavares and Mitch Marner failed to muster any scoring chances the final portion of the game. Marner would ultimately end up finishing the night without a shot on goal in a disappointing night for the line. Likewise, matched up with the best checking line for Columbus, centered by former number three overall pick Pierre-Luc Dubois, the Leafs top line of Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Zach Hyman underperformed for stretches of the game with Matthews feeling like the only threat to score. Heading into the rest of the series, the Leafs will need more out of their top players. This is the only way that they stand any chance of moving on.

The Verdict

One of the most tightly contested opening games of round one, the Jackets defense stymie the Leafs in game one. Led by a great goaltending performance by Joonas Korpisalo and great team defense in front of him, the team proved why they won over 30 games this season. Heading into the rest of the series, the Leafs top forwards will need to be better for them to have a chance of winning. This is a series that looks to have five games written all over it.

 

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