The Toronto Maple Leafs will look to gain an upper hand over the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight. With the best of five series tied at one apiece, a win will put the Leafs one step closer to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs – an achievement they have failed to obtain in recent years.
Fortunately, the Maple Leafs are carrying momentum after a satisfying 3-0 win on Tuesday that saw Mitch Marner (finally) start shooting, and Auston Matthews sink his first of the playoffs. However, for the Leafs to conquer tonight’s bout, they must build on everything they did well in game two.
There’s no denying the 23-year old has had a slow start to this year’s postseason. Marner’s style of play has him poised to tally an unbelievable amount of assists, considering the amount of passes he’s been making. Unfortunately, the passes have yet to lead to any quality scoring chances, as seen in the Leafs 2-0 loss in game one. While Marner failed to record a shot on net that game, he bounced back in game two, garnering 12 shot attempts within 24 minutes of ice time.
He hasn’t necessarily been bad – he just hasn’t been as good as the Leafs need their young star to be in the playoffs. Marner’s point of focus for game three – build off of his performance last game, while continuing to seek out ways to produce high quality scoring chances. He’s more than capable of being a driving force for the remainder of the qualifying round and beyond.
Jake Muzzin Out, Martin Marincin In
Losing Jake Muzzin is a hurdle that the Toronto Maple Leafs are forced to overcome. He is, without a doubt, one of Toronto’s best defensemen – playing a stay-at-home style that is extremely valuable to the overall performance of our D-core. A crosscheck to the back led Muzzin to fall awkwardly into the legs of Blue Jackets forward Oliver Bjorkstrand. It was a fluke accident, but costly for an already shaky Leafs defensive core. While Muzzin has been cleared of any injury resulting from the play, he will be stuck in quarantine for the remainder of the series. His replacement? None other than the fan favourite himself, Martin Marincin, who will be paired alongside Tyson Barrie.
I’ll try not to harp on Marincin too much considering he’s been off the active roster for some time. We’re all well aware that his abilities on NHL ice have a low ceiling. The perspective of having him in a playoff lineup is quite concerning. If his past play on the Leafs blue line serves as any indication, we should prepare for the worst for the remainder of the series. I pray he proves me, and other fans, wrong. I’m a Maple Leafs fan after all – I want nothing more than to see every single player on the team succeed both individually and as a collective.
As long as the Toronto Maple Leafs build on the small victories from game two that led to a win, game three against the Columbus Blue Jackets should be a breeze. Unfortunately, as we all know, a win is never guaranteed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs – but Leafs nation would sure love to see one tonight.
Enjoy the game!