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Preview: Toronto travel to Columbus to silence the cannon

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It’s a battle of offensive prowess, as two surprisingly similar teams meet for the first time.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Columbus Blue Jackets
The single most important member of the Blue Jackets. And Nick Foligno.
Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Leafs at Blue Jackets: Game 56

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location:

Broadcast/Streaming: Sportsnet, TVAS, Fox Sports Ohio

Opponent SBNation Site: Jackets Cannon

I don’t understand the Blue Jackets. I mean, some of their success is obvious—the forward lineup and configuration, and Bob. Other than that, I don’t get it.

John Tortorella is the same man who took a modestly talented Team USA and made them look incompetent at the World Cup. Mac Pacioretty and James van Riemsdyk were on that team, and he had no use for either of them. They are 16th and 33rd in league-wide scoring right now.

In his first season behind the bench, Tortorella simply did not line match. At all. He just rolled the lines out there to fail repeatedly, and by the time-on-ice numbers, he’s rolling four lines again, but perhaps with a little more care.

The Jackets play a high event style of hockey similar to the Leafs. They aren’t quite as frenetic as the league-leading Leafs, but that also means their shots against are lower. The result is a nearly identical Corsi For percentage on the season.

Their Goals For percentage at five-on-five is a different story. They are fifth in the league, just behind the top contenders and just ahead of Chicago. The Leafs have moved up into tenth place, which is very good.

The Jackets score goals at almost the same rate as the Leafs, a tiny bit less, but the difference comes in the goals against. Toronto is 25th, in with the bad teams, and Columbus is 10th, just below the serious contenders. (And the Buffalo Sabres.) The difference, what gets Columbus where it is, is partly those fewer shots against, mostly the hard ride they give Bobrovsky, and a little bit of better defensive play. They are more experienced than the Leafs and they have a lot fewer complete newbs in the lineup.

Columbus Blue Jackets Win-Loss Record
Hockey Reference

They took those ingredients and went on a win streak that has come to a crashing halt. They are starting to look more like the second tier, not quite top-of-the-league team they likely are in terms of roster. And I don’t know if Tortorella is the kind of coach that makes a good roster better.

If you haven’t seen it already, check out this story on David Clarkson and his ongoing medical issues, eerily similar to Nathan Horton.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forward Lines

Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Connor Brown

James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitch Marner

Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander

Matt Martin - Ben Smith - Josh Leivo

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Nikita Zaitsev

Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick

Matt Hunwick - Roman Polak

Goaltenders

Frederik Andersen

Curtis McElhinney

Columbus Blue Jackets

Forward Lines

Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Brandon Saad - Alexander Wennberg - Oliver Bjorkstrand

Josh Anderson - William Karlsson - Nick Foligno

Matt Calvert - Lukas Sedlak - Sam Gagner

Defence Pairings

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Ryan Murray - Markus Nutivaara

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky

Joonas Korpisalo


The Columbus lineup is stacked with scoring ability much like Toronto. Also like the Leafs, they have one player in the top 30 in league scoring and then a few more sprinkled around just below that one. They aren’t going to contend for the title because they’re too busy rolling their lines and winning games.

The Jackets might be the team that comes closest to the dream of rolling four lines too. They have no forwards averaging over 19 minutes per game, and only Lukas Sedlak is under 10.

There will be no time off in the game tonight for the Leafs, no easy line to play against, and the only relief comes when that top defence pair sits down. And the bottom four are not the laugh-out-loud bad group they used to be — Columbus moved all of those guys to Colorado.

Goaltending tonight will likely be the return home of Curtis McElhinney to the players he’s faced in practice more often than he’s ever faced a team on the ice. He will likely face Bobrovsky, who took the loss against the Rangers two nights ago.

We will update you with lineup news as it becomes available. Mike Babcock did say he was going to play Josh Leivo even though Nikita Soshnikov is ready to return.