Tonight the Toronto Maple Leafs played their first meaningful game since March 10th, a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning that broke a three game losing streak and was supposed to get the Leafs over their disastrous California road trip. Instead of watching the Leafs build on this important victory and make a strong playoff push, we watched the world shutdown two days later. The NHL, NBA, and other major sports leagues around the world halted play. Stores closed and classes ended.
Five months later things have changed. The NBA is playing in Orlando. The NHL is bubbled in Toronto and Edmonton. Stores are re-opening with caution, and some parts of the world have returned to near normalcy. Most of us haven’t, but are using these games as an escape and a rallying point. Some years ago the Maple Leafs described themselves as “The Passion tat Unites Us All”. On this hot August night, the Maple Leafs united us, and gave us a piece of normalcy back by picking up exactly where they left off: Frustrating the hell out of their fans and losing games they should be winning.
The Maple Leafs came out of the gate a little sloppy, with some giveaways and being hemmed in to their own zone, but our first little bit of excitement come from the 18 year old rookie Nick Robertson coming inches away from his first professional goal in his first official NHL game.
Nick Robertson gets a shot on goal on his first NHL shift pic.twitter.com/O63lW8Htyc— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
The players with something to prove were the highlight for the Maple Leafs early on, as the Columbus Blue Jackets were a little more put together when it came to play making. Nick Robertson was coming out hard, as above, and back from injury Ilya Mikheyev was making his mark in the top 6:
Ilya Mikheyev chips chases and finds John Tavares pic.twitter.com/ICb5F6OzSA— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
Robertson flying in pic.twitter.com/BugXfuKccw— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
The Maple Leafs start coming out of their shells as the period moves on, more pesky moves in front of the net from Zach Hyman, more twists and turns and little hits bounce off him from Auston Matthews. Ilya Mikheyev almost scores.
Hit a stick on the way through pic.twitter.com/OHy3mU4YDX— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
Pierre-Luc Dubois gets a couple chances on net, but Frederik Andersen easily turns them both away to keep the game tied at zero as we pass the halfway mark of the period.
Big stop by Andersen on Dubois pic.twitter.com/JdjxaszuOg— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
Andersen makes the stop on a Wirenski slapper pic.twitter.com/HRdyK6JRUS— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
The Tavares line and the Kerfoot line are having an easier time than Auston Matthews’ line, as he and his wingers are having a rough time getting past the Blue Jackets top line. Not that anything is easy for either team. Both are making things difficult in the centre of the ice, forcing puck carriers to the boards and blocking any good shooting lanes.
Mikheyev and Tavares are hanging around the Columbus net, and cause some commotion trying to screen Korpisalo, David Savard on Columbus knocks Tavares over and causes a scrum after the whistle.
Travis Dermott with a bunch of fakes resulting in chaos in front of the net pic.twitter.com/nqlS1iDbRN— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
A puck bounces off Dubois in the Leafs end, and Kasperi Kapanen chases the it down the ice, but ultimately whiffs on the shot in front of the Columbus net, and still no goals for the Leafs.
That's Kappy pic.twitter.com/4oDetuBoxT— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
Auston Matthews brings the puck back into the zone and almost gets the first goal of the game:
Matthews gets a quick shot that rings off the crossbar pic.twitter.com/v2uHgOAo6i— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
As the clock ticks down Zach Werenski gets a good shot off in the Leafs zone, but the PING! of the post echos around the empty arena, and play continues. Morgan Rielly almost scores for Toronto, Oliver Bjorkstrand almost scores for Columbus, but Andersen makes the save.
The first penalty comes against Cody Ceci when he’s accused of something on Pierre-Luc Dubois, but the Columbus power play can’t control things and we spend the final 30 second of the period in the Blue Jackets end,
Oh interference? Sure, why not.
Hey everyone. This is interference according to the refs. pic.twitter.com/kotg1xGUsl— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
After one shots are 11-8 for Toronto, score is 0-0.
Both teams are trying to play like themselves - the Blue Jackets ant to be boring and clogging the neutral zone and boring, the Leafs want to be footloose and fancy free. Neither is properly achieving those goals and we have a very frustrating first period.
The second period begins with the Ceci penalty continuing, but the Maple Leafs penalty kill does it’s job well and keeps the Blue Jackets to just one bad shot, and Ceci gets out of the box without any (undeserved) guilt.
The period continues without much danger from either team, not a lot of work for either goalie as the puck is gently tossed towards the goal, gets cycled around the ice, and everyone is best friends - as demonstrated by Nick Robertson giving Gavrikov a piggyback:
Robertson goes in on Gavrikov who proceeds to...yeah pic.twitter.com/dTZDekjzbN— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
Somehow, that was not a penalty, but Cam Atkinson soon was called for tripping, giving the Leafs their first power play.
The Leafs power play plays with the puck for a minute, until William Nylander flings it out from behind the net to Mitch Marner, who gets it to Tavares, but Tavares has his stick tied up, so Matthews tries to score, but can’t get it past Korpisalo.
He's getting there pic.twitter.com/PPsaezC35k— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
Like the Blue Jackets, the Maple Leafs are not able to score with the an advantage. Play continues with outside shots and questionable non-calls. Travis Dermott lets Eric Robinson get behind him and Morgan Rielly has to hustle to get back and keep Robinson from getting a chance. No goals again, as Frederik Andersen is the highlight of tonight’s Leafs team.
Dermott can't hold the line and loses the foot race. Andersen comes up with the stop pic.twitter.com/moaKKgT04h— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
Auston Matthews gets the puck in the offensive zone and no matter what Seth Jones does he can not get it off Matthews. Auston gets a pass out, but it’s taken by Columbus and Travis Dermott gets his payback on Eric Robinson by keeping the Columbus forward from getting a shot off.
Covering Auston Matthews pic.twitter.com/jO488LHhV6— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
Dermott closes Robinson off on the zone entry pic.twitter.com/gHZDIRPCC3— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
Alex Texier comes close to scoring for Columbus, as Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci are busy roughing up Bjorkstrand right in front of Freddie, but Andersen stands tall again and makes the save.
Another strong save by Andersen pic.twitter.com/tRHa2pDRdZ— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
William Nylander gets the puck behind the Jackets’ net, and has a quick pass straight up the slot to Matthews whose one timer is caught in the glove of Korpisalo. The goalies are making all the real highlights tonight.
Matthews robbed by Korpisalo in the slot pic.twitter.com/yA5wHRelkf— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
There is a heart stopping scramble in front of the Leafs net as the puck gets loose and tossed around, but is thankfully cleared from the zone. Real chance there for a bad bounce to end this.
Frederik Andersen. Larceny. pic.twitter.com/tTqbbt7wWK— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
The second period ends with the shots evenly split, and the game still scoreless.
The third period begins with a Cam Atkinson goal as the puck slips just past Andersen on the far side of the net.
The Leafs get down into the Columbus end and Kapanen gets another solid chance to score but bloops the puck under his stick blade and again loses the chance.
Columbus sets up camp in the Leafs end, passing the puck around, taking a shot, and all the Leafs are able to do to fight them off is ice the puck; bringing the face off right back to their end. As the Leafs try to get out, Cody Ceci gets his second penalty of the game, called for tripping Cam Atkinson.
The Maple Leafs penalty kill is the highlight of the night for Toronto, as they keep the Blue Jackets from scoring and and keep them away from any good chances.
The game continues through the period, slowly crushing our souls and hopes that this qualifying round would be something new, the time off would give the Leafs some new ideas in what to do. Columbus is controlling the puck, the play, keeping the Maple Leafs from being the speedy little play makers we know they can be. Columbus is grinding them down and easily playing against the Leafs weak and confused defence.
Even the goal judge is being lulled to sleep by this game:
When you press the wrong button pic.twitter.com/wK3qsnLXx9— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
Literally nothing of note happened in the final 10 minutes of this game.
The Toronto Maple Leafs lose game one 2-0 (empty net goal for Alex Wennberg) and go down in the best of five series 1-0.
The next game is Tuesday afternoon at 4:00PM.
Your update editor confesses to turning the game off before the bitter end, so no idea what went on here... anyone?
Need to correct and clarify an earlier tweet regarding a play that happened away from camera view near the end of the game. It was #LeafsForever Zach Hyman, not Kaspari Kapanen, who blasted #CBJ Cam Atkinson just after he cleared the puck leading to Wennberg’s empty-net goal. 1/2— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) August 3, 2020
#NHL reviewed the hit and has apparently decided against any supplemental discipline for Zach Hyman.— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) August 3, 2020
The 10-minute misconduct handed to Kaspari Kapanen at the final buzzer is believed to be for (verbal) abuse of an official.#CBJ #LeafsForever