Perfection is probably too strong of a word.
Maybe we can substitute the phrase really damn well in when describing how the Columbus Blue Jackets played in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers on Sunday. It's hard to take exception with either description, though. The Maple Leafs, despite entering the series as the betting favorite, got shut out by goaltender Joonas Korpisalo and let in a tie-breaking goal from Cam Atkinson at the beginning of the third period. Never did it feel like they got comfortable.
|CBJ 1, TOR 0 • QUALIFIER SERIES|
|TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS|
36–25–9 // 81 points
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
4 P.M. – TUESDAY, AUGUST 4
FOX SPORTS OHIO,
FOX SPORTS GO
Rather, Columbus dictated what happened by securing a 2-0 win and moving on to Game 2 on Tuesday. The puck will drop at 4 p.m. in the pivotal second game of a five-game series.
“I thought the refs for both teams did a great job in letting the teams play,” coach John Tortorella said on Monday. “I thought that's why it was such a good game, because both teams were allowed to play. Both teams had surges. We find a way to score a goal.”
Undoubtedly, Tortorella and his team are on guard for a completely different-looking game after doing largely whatever it pleased versus the Maple Leafs. With Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and John Tavares, Toronto has a fearsome offense that ranked near the top of most scoring statistical categories.
Columbus, once again, will look to forecheck and play as physically as possible in order to hold the Maple Leafs in check.
|1||SUN, AUG. 2, 2020||CBJ 2, TOR 0 // GAME HIGHLIGHTS|
|2||TUE, AUG. 4, 2020||TBD|
|3||THU, AUG. 6, 2020||TBD|
|4 (IF REQUIRED)||FRI, AUG. 7, 2020||TBD|
|5 (IF REQUIRED)||SUN, AUG. 9, 2020||TBD|
“When it's playoffs, you're playing in a series, that always ramps up,” Boone Jenner said on Monday. “I think that's just playoff hockey. You're going to be more physical and every little play, every little battle matters that much more.”
Offensively, Columbus only managed one goal before Toronto pulled Frederik Andersen from the net as a last-ditch effort. It came on a Cam Atkinson shot that even he didn't think would find the back of the net when the puck came off of his stick. However, the Blue Jackets had a number of prime opportunities they simply didn't convert.
Against a Maple Leafs defense that ranked sixth-worst in the NHL this regular season in goals allowed per game, it's an area Columbus – even though it's not as prolific as Toronto's – should be able to penetrate. After Game 1, Tortorella said he hoped Atkinson got some confidence from his goal, which could propel him as the series continues. Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alexander Wennberg also stood out. Zach Werenski had a shot hit the post, too.
If some of those breaks on scoring chances go Columbus' way and the team can once again dictate how the game flows, not allowing the Maple Leafs the space to play as they'd like, then the Blue Jackets will have a chance to pull ahead 2-0 in the series.
Columbus Blue Jackets Projected Lines
|42||ALEXANDRE TEXIER||18||PIERRE-LUC DuBOIS||28||OLIVER BJORKSTRAND|
|14||GUSTAV NYQUIST||10||ALEXANDER WENNBERG||13||CAM ATKINSON|
|71||NICK FOLIGNO||38||BOONE JENNER||19||LIAM FOUDY|
|50||ERIC ROBINSON||20||RILEY NASH||52||EMIL BEMSTROM|
|8||ZACH WERENSKI||3||SETH JONES|
|44||VLADISLAV GAVRIKOV||58||DAVID SAVARD|
|27||RYAN MURRAY||14||DEAN KUKAN|
|70||JOONAS KORPISALO||90||ELVIS MERZLIKINS|
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
|88||WILLIAM NYLANDER||34||AUSTON MATTHEWS||11||ZACH HYMAN|
|65||ILYA MIKHEYEV||91||JOHN TAVARES||16||MITCH MARNER|
|89||NICHOLAS ROBERTSON||15||ALEXANDER KERFOOT||24||KASPERI KAPANEN|
|73||KYLE CLIFFORD||33||FREDERIK GAUTHIER||19||JASON SPEZZA|
|8||JAKE MUZZIN||3||JUSTIN HOLL|
|44||MORGAN RIELLY||83||CODY CECI|
|23||TRAVIS DERMOTT||94||TYSON BARRIE|
|31||FREDERIK ANDERSEN||36||JACK CAMPBELL|
- 1-1 or 2-0: Technically, a Blue Jackets win on Tuesday wouldn't eliminate the Maple Leafs. Yet for all intents and purposes, that's exactly what would happen. In the history of five-game series in the NHL, 55 of 56 teams that came out on top in both of the first two games ultimately won the series. So if Columbus pulls ahead 2-0 in the series, it's not actually over but it might as well be finished. A Toronto victory, however, would suddenly even it at one win apiece. The second game will swing the series, either sending it heavily in the Blue Jackets' favor or evening it out.
- Controlling the game: The Maple Leafs never could get going in the way they hoped throughout Game 1, leading to the shutout and Columbus edging them with two third-period goals. In what Tortorella said was "nothing special," the Blue Jackets just played their physical, aggressive, grimy style, forcing it upon Toronto for 60 straight minutes. To have a similar level of success on Tuesday, Columbus needs to figure out a way to control the pace and play on the ice once again. If the Maple Leafs get space and can find a rhythm, it would become more difficult for the Blue Jackets to grab a second win in a row.
- Can Korpi stay hot?: Though Korpisalo earned an All-Star selection in the regular season, so many fans expected Tortorella to turn to someone else. A sizable chunk of people thought Elvis Merzlikins would get the nod. Instead, Tortorella named Korpisalo as the starter, and he delivered as well as anybody could have reasonably hoped. The 26-year-old, despite facing one of the most high-scoring offenses in the league, held the Maple Leafs scoreless on Sunday. Can he follow it up with another outstanding performance on Tuesday? It's possible, even though he's in for another stiff challenge.
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