Image Credit: CBC.ca
Yeah, I can't think of a clever way to start this game review article because I am so close to throwing this laptop out the window after watching this game....so here we go.
You know going into this first period both teams were going to be looking to make a statement early. Right out of the gate both teams were playing very aggressively in the offensive zones and trying to create any kind of chance on the rush. The Leafs definitely take the period in terms of possession and overall control of flow of the game. Besides the few times that the Leafs continued to shoot from the outside and rack up the block shots for Columbus, I think they held their game in this period and were very solid and relentless on the puck.
The Leafs did a good job so far at this point of adjusting to the Defensive changes and Head Coach Sheldon Keefe did a good job adjusting them. Travis Dermott had a very good period and showed a lot of fire. He did run into penalty trouble with a VERY soft call for interference on Seth Jones. The Leafs did a great job with penalty killing and a random shot from the point by Cody Ceci comes off the foot of Blue Jackets defenceman Seth Jones and right by Korpisalo which definitely stung. Overall a great period by both teams with the Leafs with the slight advantage.
The second period was a period both teams wanted to take control of early on and it showed in their play. Both sides with some physical pressure and some good chances, Columbus trying very hard to get the tying goal but Toronto playing some good team defense. A lot of the Leafs big players were very noticeable in this period and last, players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares, but it is William Nylander that makes the first statement by scoring on the powerplay out front to make it 2-1. The Leafs were taking control of the game after and a very special moment not too long later, Jason Spezza sets up the 18-year-old rookie, Nick Roberston, for a one-timer and he put a squeaker past Korpisalo to put the Leafs up 3-1.
The Blue Jackets Head Coach had seen enough and decided to pull Joonas Korpisalo and replace with there other goaltender, who has never played in the playoffs, Elvis Merzlikins. This was an interesting decision as well because heading into the playoffs the assumption was that Merzlikins was going to be the starter. The Maple Leafs did have trouble trying to test Merzlikins early with some tough attempts at zone entries and bad defensive work in their own zone. The Leafs would end the period off with a Power Play advantage which saw a beautiful pass by Mitch Marner to Auston Matthews who rang it off the post and could be heard all around Leafs Nation to end the period.
The beginning of this period quite LITERALLY was the story for the Leafs. Could not get anything going with a minute of power-play time and just a lot of sloppy play from the whole team. Justin Holl wasn’t having the best game and really got exposed this period, taking a bad tripping call early on and on an offensive drive into the zone, Holl doesn’t exactly get dumped into the zone, a turnover the other way and Seth Jones is able to sneak in a rocket of a shot to make it 3-2. Now I know along with myself and Leafs Nation were screaming at their TV to stay composed but just like we have seen many times this season, The Leafs can’t seem to play a complete 60 minutes and collapse. IT really seemed like the momentum and play shifted to Columbus and by mid-period on a broken play, Pierre-Luc Dubois for the Blue Jackets ripped one low past Frederick Anderson and the Leafs three-goal lead disappeared just like that. The Matthews-Marner line seemed to stay consistent for the rest of the period, creating a lot of good chances and almost restoring the Leafs lead. Unfortunately for the Leafs, this game ends up staying tied and we are off to overtime in a very crucial game.
Well, what is there really to say other than….they blew it! The Leafs lived up to what they have been doing in the regular seasons and playoffs for the last 10+ years and that is to gain a 3-0 lead and blow it. This one hurts. I got asked if this loss feels worse than any other blown comeback series against the Bruins. To be honest, yes it does. The Leafs had full control of that game heading into the third period and found a way to AGAIN not play a full 60-minute game and fail to pick up the EASY victory and are now on the brink of elimination in less than 24 hours. I pray to god that the Leafs find a way to win and force Game 5 on Sunday, but at this point...I don’t know if I even want to go through something like this again. The one thing I can take away from this game and it truly has nothing to do with this game as much as this. When the Leafs finally do win the Stanley Cup (Hopefully in my lifetime), no other teams fan base will EVER truly feel what a Leafs fan will when it happens.
Overall, yes, I will be rooting for this team tomorrow night, and even if Sunday comes and we have to play Game 5. I will always cheer for this team no matter how many times they let us down or blow any kind of lead in a game. Let’s go Leafs Nation, keep our chins up, cheer loud and proud for the boys in blue. Go Leafs Go.
……….P.S. I think Lafreniere would look good in a Leafs jersey...Just saying.