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Game Preview: Leafs once again face Columbus with the series tied 1-1

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Moving forward sans Muzzin :(

Columbus Blue Jackets v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

Columbus Blue Jackets at Toronto Maple Leafs
Series tied 1-1
8:00PM ET - Scotiabank Arena, Toronto Bubble
Watch: Sportsnet, TVA Sports, NBCSN, FS-O
Opponents: Jackets Cannon

Tonight the Toronto Maple Leafs will play game three of their 2020 Qualifying Round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The series is currently tied 1-1 so no matter what happens tonight, we’re also getting another game tomorrow (now officially set for 8:00PM ET).

After a disappointing and frustrating game on Sunday, the Leafs looked much, much better Tuesday. Not only were they playing their style of hockey, they were also successful in preventing the Blue Jackets from playing the game their way. They were much more successful in transitioning up the ice and not getting trapped by the Blue Jackets, giving them far more offensive opportunities which they were eventually able to convert into two goals. Even taking out the powerplays, the Leafs were outshooting the Blue Jackets by a wide margin, which is, generally, the surest way to win a hockey game. Both Matthews and Tavares’ goals were more credits to the shooters than knocks against Korpisalo however – he’s still playing annoyingly well, and it’s looking like the Leafs are going to have to work for every goal they get this series. On the other hand, Andersen is also locked in, and as long as we can get ok defending, scoring for the Blue Jackets should also continue to be a challenge. This series isn’t quite a goalie battle, but it’s also not not a goalie battle.

Speaking of the Leafs defense...

...the Leafs confirmed yesterday that Muzzin won’t be back for the remainder of the series, though he has returned to and will be staying inside the bubble, which hopefully bodes well for him returning to the lineup later. As of yesterday Keefe was undecided on going with seven defensemen for tonight’s game, though he has confirmed that Marincin will be taking Muzzin’s spot in the lineup. The entire situation is definitely less than ideal, both because, well, Martin Marincin, but also Muzzin is one of the best defensive players that the Leafs have, in addition to being one of the few who plays a more physical style. Hopefully the other defensemen are able to step up in his absence, though the pairings are already giving me the vapours.

A short list of other things I’d like to see tonight:

  • Mitch Marner gets going – he’s not been off to a great start this series, struggling with both shooting and passing, and I’d really like to see him turn it on, and soon. It’s not like there’s any question that he can do it, just if and when.
  • Powerplay improves – this seems to already be on a positive upwards trajectory, though that may just be because they played so much better overall on Tuesday. Either way, they are capable of being far more deadly with the man advantage, and I’d like to see them live up to that. Especially given how reticent the refs are to give it to them.
  • Nylander scores – I just want this on a personal level.

Go leafs go!!

Maple Leafs lines

From Wednesday’s practice

Zach HymanAuston MatthewsMitch Marner
William NylanderJohn TavaresIlya Mikheyev
Nick RobertsonAlex KerfootKasperi Kapanen
Kyle CliffordPierre EngvallJason Spezza
Spares: Andreas JohnssonFrederik Gauthier

Travis DermottJustin Holl
Morgan RiellyCody Ceci
Martin MarincinTyson Barrie
Spares: Rasmus SandinTimothy Liljegren
Injured: Jake Muzzin

Frederik Andersen
Jack Campbell

Aside from the obvious substitution of Martin Marincin for Jake Muzzin, there’s no other changes since Tuesday’s win – hey, if it ain’t broke!

Blue Jackets lines

From Wednesday’s practice

Alex Texier - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson
Gustav Nyquist - Alex Wennberg - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Nick Foligno - Boone Jenner - Liam Foudy
Eric Robinson - Riley Nash - Emil Bemstrom

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Vladislav Gavrikov - David Savard
Ryan Murray - Markus Nutivaara
Spares: Scott Harrington - Dean Kukan

Joonas Korpisalo
Elvis Merzlikins

There’s been a lot more changes with the Blue Jackets’ lines, understandable given the shutout on Tuesday. Their first three forward lines all shuffled, while Markus Nutivaara replaces Dean Kukan on their defense.