Nobody on the Columbus Blue Jackets roster should be spending their Sunday doing anything related to the Toronto Maple Leafs other than reflecting on their 3-1 series win.
Instead, because of Toronto’s miraculous three-goal comeback in the final four minutes of regulation in Friday evening’s matchup that ended with Auston Matthews scoring a power-play goal to clinch a 4-3 overtime victory, the two teams will meet in the fifth game of their five-game Stanley Cup Qualifying series. The devastating collapse forced Columbus to regroup for Game 5 within 48 hours.
|CBJ 2, TOR 2 • QUALIFIER SERIES|
|TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS|
36–25–9 // 81 points
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
8 P.M. – SUNDAY, AUGUST 9
FOX SPORTS OHIO, NBCSN
FOX SPORTS GO
“I just think we obviously sat back,” Nick Foligno said on Saturday. “It wasn't what went wrong; we allowed a team to kind of get some energy off of one goal and just didn't have that push-back that we needed. A couple unfortunate bounces with empty nets and it's the difference in the game. It's unfortunate because we played a really good hockey game up until that point.”
The puck will drop at 8 p.m. Sunday in the series-deciding game, marking the final chapter in a back-and-forth series between two teams pining for postseason success.
Columbus captured Game 1 with a 2-0 victory, sparked by its physical, forechecking style. Toronto responded by smoking the Blue Jackets in Game 2, easing by with a 3-0 win that led John Tortorella to say his team “sucked” that night. Two days later, the Maple Leafs blew a 3-0 lead when Tortorella pulled goaltender Joonas Korpisalo to insert Elvis Merzlikins who helped his team grab a 4-3 overtime win. Then on Friday, it was Columbus’ turn to pull out to a 3-0 lead only to lose it in overtime, setting up a Game 5 with everything on the line.
“Obviously disappointed we didn't get the job done yesterday, but the reason why we won two games ago was to give ourselves two cracks at it and make sure we make good on it,” Foligno said.
|1||SUN, AUG. 2, 2020||CBJ 2, TOR 0 // GAME HIGHLIGHTS|
|2||TUE, AUG. 4, 2020||TOR 3, CBJ 0 // GAME HIGHLIGHTS|
|3||THU, AUG. 6, 2020||COL 4, TOR 3 (OT) // GAME HIGHLIGHTS|
|4||FRI, AUG. 7, 2020||TOR 4, COL 3 (OT) // GAME HIGHLIGHTS|
|5||SUN, AUG. 9, 2020||TBD|
Jarmo Kekalainen, the Blue Jackets general manager, says he views this as a “tight series,” deeming it a “battle” and noting “we just have to get ready for Sunday because it's going to be another one there.”
The winner will take on the Tampa Bay Lightning next round.
Offensively, Columbus has been hot and cold when searching for goals, unable to score consistently early in the season before scoring three times in regulation each of the past two games. On Sunday, Tortorella will need Cam Atkinson (5 points in series) and Pierre-Luc Dubois (4 points in series) to power their offensive attack.
On the other end of the ice with Merzlikins likely in the net to start a second straight game, Columbus can’t afford to allow Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner to settle in. When the Blue Jackets get on power plays, they’re particularly dangerous. After scoring a series-high four goals in Game 4, Toronto will attempt to bring its momentum into Sunday.
“You can't dwell on things,” Foligno said. “It's how you respond to adversity that's going to allow you to have success, and especially in playoffs. If there's anything we've learned, that's what makes good teams great in playoffs. They respond the right way. I have full confidence that our team will respond the right way. This is a great opportunity for us, guys.”
Good luck predicting how Sunday’s tilt will play out after so many different-looking games in the past week.
“It's a tight series. We've seen two pretty good comebacks in the past two games. It's a great series, in my opinion. It's a battle and we just have to get ready for Sunday because it's going to be another one there.”– General manager Jarmo Kekalainen
Columbus Blue Jackets Projected Lines
|42||ALEXANDRE TEXIER||18||PIERRE-LUC DUBOIS||13||CAM ATKINSON|
|19||LIAM FOUDY||10||ALEXANDER WENNBERG||28||OLIVER BJORKSTRAND|
|14||GUSTAV NYQUIST||38||BOONE JENNER||71||NICK FOLIGNO|
|50||ERIC ROBINSON||20||RILEY NASH||24||NATHAN GERBE|
|46||DEAN KUKAN||3||SETH JONES|
|44||VLADISLAV GAVRIKOV||58||DAVID SAVARD|
|65||MARKUS NUTIVAARA||14||SCOTT HARRINGTON|
|70||JOONAS KORPISALO||90||ELVIS MERZLIKINS|
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
|16||MITCH MARNER||34||AUSTON MATTHEWS||11||ZACH HYMAN|
|89||NICHOLAS ROBERTSON||91||JOHN TAVARES||88||WILLIAM NYLANDER|
|65||ILYA MIKHEYEV||15||ALEXANDER KERFOOT||24||KASPERI KAPANEN|
|73||KYLE CLIFFORD||47||PIERRE ENGVALL||19||JASON SPEZZA|
|44||MORGAN RIELLY||83||CODY CECI|
|52||MARTIN MARINCIN||3||JUSTIN HOLL|
|23||TRAVIS DERMOTT||94||TYSON BARRIE|
|31||FREDERIK ANDERSEN||36||JACK CAMPBELL|
- Who's on the ice?: Late in the regulation of Friday's game, Zach Werenski exited with an apparent injury and did not return to action. His absence coincided with Ryan Murray sitting out Game 4 with an undisclosed injury. If neither – but especially Werenski – are able to play on Sunday, that would be a notable blow to a Columbus team that dealt with innumerable injuries in the regular season. The other personnel question, of course, pertains to which goaltender the Blue Jackets start on Sunday. More than likely, Merzlikins will be the answer. However, Tortorella has not yet confirmed it.
- Moving past the past: It's one thing to say you don't want to think about what happened. Atkinson and Tortorella did so on Friday, and Foligno followed up with similar comments on Saturday. It could be more difficult to actually put Friday's loss behind them. That'll be one of the challenges the Blue Jackets face. What should help is the players and coaches can just look at the first four games to see how quickly results change.
- Which goalies show up: In the final game of this series, the goalies for both Columbus and Toronto can swing Sunday's results. Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen has a .941 save percentage this series, allowing 1.79 goals per game, and will try to continue his solid play into Game 5. Whether Merzlikins or Korpisalo starts, the Blue Jackets should feel good about who they have in front of the net. Will they remain steady in what Boone Jenner called a "do-or-die" game? We'll find that out shortly.