Leafs Solve Korpisalo and Blue Jackets
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Usually in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Game 2 would never be as nerve-racking as I was before this one. Losing in this game, of a best-of-5 series, is basically the nail in the coffin and gives the ultimate stranglehold for the opposing team. To put it in easier terms, if the Leafs were to have lost this game, they would need to win 3 straight and the Blue Jackets only 1 game. So yeah, you could say going into this game myself and pretty much all of Leafs Nation were holding our breath.
Going into the first period, I think the Leafs game plan would for sure had to of been different from anything shown in Game 1. The Leafs definitely came to play in this one, a very hot start with lots of shots and speed catching most of the Blue Jacket players off guard at times. Korpisalo showed early that he was still in his shutout grove from game 1 with a couple great saves early on and most importantly staying very composed in the Blue Jacket net. Not to say it wasn't the same the other way, Frederick Anderson came up with some big needed saves also this period. I think the best thing though the Leafs did this period was shut down Blue Jackets Defensive pairing of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. The Leafs were able to play a physical period with concentrating a lot of the hitting on those two in particular which completely saw them shut down and help the offense create plays. Overall not a bad period by both teams and showing just how evenly matched up these teams are. The only negative I saw was that the Leafs continued to work more outside shots while Columbus continued to clog the center of the ice and the strategy that won game 1 for them.
The second period was such a mixed bag of emotions and a lot of times yelling at my television saying what I think the majority of Leafs Nation was saying in "WHAT WAS THAT?!". The Leafs had a very much of a hard time in the neutral zone this game, especially when it came to the transition. Some bad penalties early on and some blown power-play chances caused for a very stressful second period which only made it feel like us Leafs fans were having a case of deja vu from game 1. Although I can't blame EVERYTHING on the Leafs this period, the Blue Jackets rookie goaltender Joonas Korpisalo came up with some very big saves. Even making Leafs Captain John Tavares look skyward a few times as he had around 10 shots without a goal at one point in the period. There was a very big positive in this period though, and to quote Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson...FINALLY! At the 16:00 minute mark, Auston Matthews scores for the Leafs with a beautiful tip goal and pass from Zack Hynman to solve Korpisalo for the first time this series. From here to the end of the period was the Leafs shot show as they heavily outshot the Blue Jackets. Better second period and the Leafs looked to be going into the third with a lot of fire and momentum.
The goalies in the third period were called upon a few times and in desperate moments. Both teams showing some sloppy defensive play and breakouts and causing turnovers that almost led to goals and making this a very different game. It is funny though, because, on one of these broken plays, the Leafs John Tavares is fed a pass for a breakaway and beats Korpisalo with a fool of a shot and gives the Leafs a 2-0 lead. Johnny Toronto coming in clutch with a huge goal and at this point in the game I was able to sit back in my seat for a while. The Leafs from there did not take their foot off the gas and continued to pressure the Blue Jackets and beat them with there speed game. Now for the part of the game where I don't think anyone was able to be ready for or experience. Jake Muzzin takes a bad fall after being cross-checked from behind but Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Debois. At first, Muzzin looked to have just been shaken up but as the moments went on and the stretcher came out, things went from maybe okay to definitely not okay. The silence that anyone watching had to go through made the situation very intense and something I never want to go through again. The good news about all of this is Jake Muzzin was said to be doing okay and was able to move all limbs. Eventually, Morgan Rielly would add an empty-net goal and the Leafs comeback in game 2 with a statement score of 3-0 with Frederick Anderson earning a playoff shutout.
Overall, this was a better performance by the Maple Leafs, and the players that were asleep the game prior definitely showed up to play. This was the playoff hockey Leafs Nation was looking for and the type of game the Leafs should continue to play for the rest of the series.