Columbus Blue Jackets at Toronto Maple Leafs
Whichever team wins advances to the playoffs
8:00 p.m. ET
Watch: Sportsnet, TVA Sports, NBCSN, FS-O
Opponent SB Nation Site: Jackets Cannon
The Maple Leafs play the final game of the NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers tonight. Yes, it’s not only the Leafs final game in this newfangled qualifying round, but by 8:00 p.m. tonight it will be the only game left on the schedule. All of the other series will be settled, including the round-robin games that determine the seeding of the top teams which didn’t need to qualify. There’s nothing left to decide the final list of participants and the match-ups for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs except for this game.
The whole hockey world will be watching this one tonight. No pressure, Leafs.
There is, of course, an immense amount of pressure tonight, especially after what happened over the last two games with both the Leafs and Blue Jackets blowing three goal leads leads, though the Jackets manoeuvring to do that over the course of only four minutes while the Leafs had an empty net the whole time was far more impressive. Let’s watch that again.
This is exactly what our Site Manager said she wanted, right?
My heart wants hockey that isn’t boring. My heart wants thrills and excitement, and maybe not quite the Edmonton-Chicago defence is a dirty word series, but I don’t want to fall into the trap of the trap. I don’t want to hope we get lucky. I want the players to go out there and just Do. Do it the way they are made to. Be yourself, Leafs, no matter what they say.
Friday night was definitely not boring, but I’m sure what happened in Game 4 isn’t the “Maximum Leafs” Katya had in mind, or any of us, and I’m sure none of us wants to see it happen again to close out this series tonight.
I am reminded of a previous occasion where Sheldon Keefe faced another team in a final game of a series; the Marlies playing the Texas Stars in Game 7 of the Calder Cup Final in 2018. The Marlies took control early, and effectively implemented a plan to hold that control through to the end of the third period.
Mueller ➡️ Moore ➡️ Marchment. #ThisIsMMMore#MarliesLive pic.twitter.com/rSWCPMKR80— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) June 14, 2018
The Stars finally scored in the third to make it 3-1, but, wouldn’t you know it, the Marlies scored three goals in the final four minutes. Hmm, that sounds familiar. Keefe really likes those late game surges, though in that case it was padding the lead, not catching up. And, hey, wouldn’t that be something for the Leafs to keep in mind for tonight?
It’s a reminder of how much the depth of the Leafs has turned over in the past two seasons. There’s not much of that Marlies roster affiliated with the team for tonight’s game. Miro Aaltonen went back to the KHL, Ben Smith went to Switzerland, Dmytro Timashov was claimed by the Red Wings, and Carl Grundstrom and Andreas Borgman were traded. Both Trevor Moore and Mason Marchment were traded this season too. The two goalies are also gone, though not particularly missed. Andreas Johnsson is still with the organisation, but also still recovering from a major injury which required knee surgery in February. A few more form that Marlies roster are present, but watching from the bubble’s equivalent of the pressbox, while Adam Brooks is watching from home, probably very comfortably. The Leafs do have Justin Holl and Travis Dermott on defence, which is a discussion for another article.
The only major piece left from that Marlies team is Sheldon Keefe himself. Perhaps he could tell the tale of that game to everyone who wasn’t there, and highlight the applicable moral of the story; if you get the lead, don’t take your foot off the gas, even if the the Blue Jackets do.
Would Torts even let his Jackets do that? I don’t think so. At least not without lots of animated screaming and wild gesticulating on the bench.
https://t.co/6Cnm6Q8RK8 pic.twitter.com/0YjS4NyEtw— Alison (@AlisonL) August 4, 2020
He’s angry about Friday, folks. He didn’t like what happened and is he ever not going to let it happen again. You can listen here to his detailed and nuanced breakdown of everything that went wrong in that game.
Lineups and Jake Muzzin’s Status
Both coaches had pressers at early this afternoon, and both were characteristically tight lipped about their series-final strategies, but we did get some information. One detail is that Zach Werenski will be playing tonight, despite suffering a possible shoulder injury on Friday.
There’s also an update on Jake Muzzin.
Jake Muzzin is out of quarantine inside the NHL bubble and skated this morning.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) August 9, 2020
Whether or not he will play is still up in the air. Keefe didn’t explicitly say he was ready to play, but also didn’t say he isn’t going to play either.
Keefe says Jake Muzzin skated this morning ... it was the first time he left his hotel room since getting back from hospital— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) August 9, 2020
“Great to see him around our team"
That sounds like the answer is no, he won’t return until the next round, but you’ll have to wait and see to find out what Keefe does for sure! In the meantime, here’s the projected lineups with Muzzin out.
Maple Leafs Lines
(from the start of Friday's game)
Zach Hyman – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
Nick Robertson – John Tavares – William Nylander
Ilya Mikheyev – Alex Kerfoot – Kasperi Kapanen
Kyle Clifford – Pierre Engvall – Jason Spezza
Morgan Rielly – Cody Ceci
Martin Marincin – Justin Holl
Travis Dermott – Tyson Barrie
Scratched: Frederik Gauthier, Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren, Calle Rosen, Nic Petan, Denis Malgin
Injured (?): Jake Muzzin, Andreas Johnsson
Blue Jackets lines
(updated with comments from Tortorella at noon today)
Alexandre Texier - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson
Liam Foudy - Alex Wennberg - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Gustav Nyquist - Boone Jenner - Nick Foligno
Eric Robinson - Riley Nash - Nathan Gerbe
Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Vladislav Gavrikov - David Savard
Ryan Murray - Dean Kukan
Joonas Korpisalo (confirmed starter)
Elvis Merzlikins (possibly injured)
GO LEAFS GO!
Please, Leafs, just get this win so we can move on to the first round of the real playoffs and have a proper seven game grind-it-out series against (checks notes) THE LIGHTNING? Oh crap.
Still, it’s better to be playing them than watching the bubble out the window of your Toronto condo. This is your time, Young Leafs. Make it happen.
Do the Leafs win this one?
This poll is closed
Yes! They’ll win it something like 4-0
Barely. They’ll win it something like 1-0
We’ll all have a heart attack, but they’ll win it something like 7-6
I’m not so sure they’ll win it...
Thank you for reminding me to get out to the LCBO before the game tonight.