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Preview: the Blue Jackets come to test the mettle of the Maple Leafs

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Get ready for a fast-paced game.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Columbus Blue Jackets vs Toronto Maple Leafs:

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Location: We don’t care, as long as it’s in the Eastern Time Zone

Broadcast/Streaming: Sprotsnet Ontario, TVAS, Fox Sports Ohio

Opponent SBNation Site: The Cannon

The Columbus Blue Jackets are coming to town, and I confess that I know nothing about this team. We’ll have to go on a voyage of discovery together.

They currently sit at the top of the Metropolitan Division, which is what most good predictions models had them at this season. The fact that the two New York teams who are supposed to be duking it out for last are two and three is testimony to how snarled up the Metro is this season. And how weirdly the Penguins and the Capitals are playing.

Columbus is fourth in the league, right behind Toronto, with 26 points to the Leafs’ 28. The goal differential is not similar, however. The Leafs are at +19, and CBJ are at +6.

CBJ won their last game against the best team in the league that never wins, the Carolina Hurricanes, with a 4-1 score on a Cam Atkinson hat trick, so he’ll be feeling pleased with himself.

Columbus were also missing their two best players for a bit with Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin out sick, but they were both back for Saturday’s win. They are the centre of a lot of trade rumours, and we’d be sick to death of hearing about them if the Leafs weren’t so helpfully laying down covering fire they can hide behind.

In terms of stats, Columbus has a below 50 per cent shot share this season so far, but an Expected Goals percentage that’s well above. That usually means they’re living on shooting and goalie skill, but the reality is they’ve been getting sub-par goalie performance and their success is entirely down to the quality and skill of their offence.

Given that, it’s interesting that they have a terrible power play thats in the bottom of the league in terms of shot rate. The Leafs now rank first in power play shot rate, power play fun, power play dominance and just all around pained looks from opposing goalies. Unfortunately CBJ don’t take a lot of penalties.

Poor five-on-five results and a lousy power play usually mean you’re looking at the Ducks under Randy Carlyle. Columbus isn’t that bad, but it makes you wonder what that roster could do if set free.

Panarin, Atkinson and their smart draft pick Pierre-Luc Dubois lead the team in points.

Maple Leafs

Lines from yesterday’s practice - no changes.

Forward Lines

Zach Hyman - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Kasperi Kapanen
Andreas Johnsson - Par Lindholm - Connor Brown
Josh Leivo - Frederik Gauthier - Tyler Ennis

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott - Igor Ozhiganov

Goaltenders

Frederik Andersen - assumed starter
Garret Sparks

Columbus Blue Jackets

From the last game preview at The Cannon

Forward Lines

Artemi Panarin - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson
Nick Foligno - Boone Jenner - Josh Anderson
Brandon Dubinsky - Alexander Wennberg - Anthony Duclair
Markus Hannikainen - Riley Nash - Oliver Bjorkstrand

Defence Pairings

Ryan Murray - Seth Jones
Markus Nutivaara - David Savard
Zach Werenski - Scott Harrington

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky
Joonas Korpisalo


Oh, I love a team that puts all their eggs in one basket and loads the top line. Usually the Leafs can roll a team like that unless the rest of the forward group are excellent checking lines, like Calgary or St. Louis have. I think line two for the Blue Jackets is who will give the Leafs some trouble.

For the Leafs, this game is a test, yes, but if they are looking to take over the top spot in the Atlantic for more than a few hours, they need to be able to beat any Metro team on any given night. Anything can happen, but the Leafs definitely have the tools to beat Columbus.

This should be a fun game, as Columbus plays at almost the pace of Toronto. They lay on the shots fairly well, but allow even more.

Go Leafs Go!