Game 2 between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Toronto Maple Leafs was another shutout with an empty-net goal, although this time the winning goalie was Toronto’s Frederik Anderson rather than Columbus’ Joonas Korpisalo. The final score was 3-0. The Toronto victory evens the best-of-five series at one game apiece.
The final score wasn’t the only difference between the second match and Sunday’s. Game 2 was a mirror image of Game 1. Rather than the Blue Jackets imposing their defensive style, the high-flying Maple Leafs controlled the flow. Toronto entered the offensive zone almost at will and outshot the Blue Jackets 27-10. (In Game 1, the Blue Jackets outshot the Maple Leafs 35-28.)
A couple of other things that differed substantially: There were only three penalties called during Game 1 (and one after play ended), while Game 2 saw a total of nine penalties (eight PIMs on the Maple Leafs, 10 PIMs on the Blue Jackets). Additionally, faceoffs flip-flopped between games: Columbus won 58.5% in Game 2, compared to 37.5% in Game 1.
Blue Jackets Defense
The Blue Jackets killed off all of the Maple Leafs’ power plays, although Toronto did generate 10 shots. Korpisalo was solid in goal, despite the two Toronto scores. Shot blocking was again a theme. Of the 11 blocked shots, Seth Jones accounted for three.
Korpisalo’s two miscues were understandable. Toronto’s first goal was a beautiful hockey play, with Auston Matthews passing to Zach Hyman, then tipping home the return pass from just in front of the crease. The 2nd goal was scored by John Tavares on a breakaway after a defensive pinch failed to keep the puck in the Maple Leafs’ zone.
Blue Jackets Offense
There’s not much to say about the Blue Jackets’ offensive output. They generated only 10 shots (but had a couple of good scoring chances). However, it’s hard to generate shots when you spend so much of the time shorthanded. (Interestingly, Columbus’ first two shots on goal came on the penalty kill). Nick Foligno was the only Blue Jacket to register more than one shot on goal – he had two.
In the faceoff circle, the Blue Jackets’ superiority was led by Riley Nash, who won eight of nine. Pierre-Luc Dubois won half of his 10 trips to the dot. (Matthews was kept below 50% and Tavares won five of nine draws.)
Coming Up Next
Game 3 of the series will be Thursday afternoon, at a more hockey-like 8 PM EST. (Tuesday afternoon hockey in August is not unusual for me, but definitely something different for the NHL.) For the first time in the series, Columbus will be the “home” team. Remember that the home team gets to match lines and waits for the visitor to position his stick in the faceoff circle. While these may seem like minor things, they’re not. Line matchups can be critical, especially in a series that features teams playing such significantly different styles. And, of course, winning a faceoff is always a good thing.
The Maple Leafs are probably going to be shorthanded in Game 3 (if not for the rest of the postseason). With about two minutes left in the game, defenseman Jake Muzzin got tied up behind his own net and had to leave the game on a stretcher. The injury appeared to be to his neck, but thankfully he was able to move his arms and legs prior to leaving the ice. He’ll be a huge loss for the Maple Leafs, having clocked the third-most time on ice among Toronto D, both prior to this afternoon’s injury and in Game 1.
Keep in mind that this is a best-of-five series, so either team still needs two wins. That’s two of a possible three. In essence, this is now a best-of-three series. The winner moves on to the actual Stanley Cup Playoffs, the loser is done until the 2020-21 season (but does have a 12.5% chance of picking 1st in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft).