Look, I’m a Toronto Maple Leafs fan but I have no clue what’s happening with this team. It’s been an absolutely insane series for the 2020 playoffs. This team is such a roller coaster that I have no clue what to expect on any given night. Let’s take a look at their four games against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2020 playoffs, as well as look forward to game 5.
In game 1 the Toronto Maple Leafs lost 2-0. The only reason they were in this game was Frederik Anderson. In game 1, Anderson made 33 saves on 34 shots against for a save percentage of .971. The league average for saves, shots against and save percentage in the regular season were 28.4, 31.3 and .910 respectively. The offense for the Toronto Maple Leafs only managed to post 28 shots in game 1. You’d expect better production when paying $33,527,000 (about 41% of the salary cap) for three forwards.
In game 2, the Toronto Maple Leafs look like a much different team. They won 3-0 by getting 38 shots and two goals on Joonas Korpisalo, the third goal being an open net goal. The Maple Leafs also played great defense, limiting the Blue Jackets to 20 shots on Anderson. However, there’s a few problems with this game. It took the Leafs 28 shots to get their first goal. Slow starts are what kill teams because they don’t gain momentum until late in the game and sometimes don’t gain it at all. The Leafs played amazing defense and limited the opportunities for the Blue Jackets to take advantage of a slow offensive start. However the other major issue is the loss of Jake Muzzin. Muzzin will miss at least the remainder of the Columbus series and his loss will hurt the Leafs. This is due to 41% of the salary cap being invested in three offensive players, which makes it extremely difficult to have any depth elsewhere.
Get it out. Get the 3-0 memes out because I’m just tired of them. I get enough crap from my friend in Boston so let’s just skip the memes and get this over with. Defense was the downfall of the Toronto Maple Leafs in game 3, no other way about it. The Jake Muzzin loss killed the team as they allowed 43 shots on net. Anderson made 39 saves for a .907%, which is right around league average. The Leafs came out strong in the first two periods, then collapsed in the third and overtime. The Leafs challenged the Blue Jackets with 38 shots on net. You can’t allow over 40 shots and expect to win the game. It’s now sink or swim for the Leafs as they entered game 4 and that’s where the tables turned.
This game made absolutely no sense to me. Remember how I said slow starts and the Jake Muzzin loss are massive issues? Well throughout the first 56 minutes of the game, it was true. Going into the third period, I was about done. No way that the team known for choking in the third was all of a sudden going to clutch up, right? Then Serenity said “Maybe they can pull it together in the third?” To which I said, “You can’t be serious.” For the first 16 minutes, I was right. Then, Toronto Time happened (Similar to, but not to be confused with, Tebow Time) The Maple Leafs just caught fire at the right time. After 37 shots William Nylander found the back of the net to put Toronto on the board. So first I thought, “Well at least it’ll be respectable.” Then less than a minute later, Auston Matthews passes to John Tavares who puts it in to bring the game within 1 with a little over 3 minutes left. Now I’ve got some hope. Completely expecting it to be crushed. Then with 22.2 left in the game, Matthews to Hyman happens. Now, it’s a game. I jumped out of my chair, screamed “HOLY CRAP.” As overtime is about to begin, I make the joke that “Well we’re gonna lose and it’s gonna hurt even more now.” Boy was I wrong. Then 6:50 left in overtime, 53 shots later and Auston Matthews ends the game, bringing it to a winner-takes-all game 5. Toronto came out flat early on, still feeling the effects of the 3-0 collapse the previous night. This game was nuts, The Leafs gave up 39 shots on Anderson, who let in three goals and still had a save percentage of .923. The Leafs managed to get 53 shots on the Blue Jackets but they didn’t score their first goal until their 37th shot. Slow starts and poor defense will be the Leafs downfall. It should have been on Friday night. Then Toronto Time happened.
Going to Game 5
Going into game 5 we’ve seen four different versions of the Maple Leafs. Game 1, coming out flat and rusty the entire game. Game 2, smothering defense and efficient offense. Both lasted the entire game. Game 3, firing on all cylinders for the first two periods then falling flat in the third and overtime. Then game 4. Nothing all game, looking hopeless for the first 56 minutes of the game. Then turning it on in the final four minutes and overtime. I have no clue what we’ll see in game 5, other than that game 2 performance won’t be replicated. The loss of Muzzin eliminates all hope for smothering defense based on a lack of depth alone. I bet you wish Jake Gardiner was still on the Leafs. The Toronto Maple Leafs need to carry this momentum into and throughout game 5. That is the key to victory.