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Does home-ice advantage really make a difference here? Probably not. Toronto also had an 18-16-7 home ice record this season meaning that in reality (not just sarcastically) it’ll make absolutely zero impact. The one thing the Leafs do have in their favor here though is the fact they scored 58 more goals than the Jackets this season.
Columbus limps into this play-in round on a 3-4-3 finish to their regular season back in March. Sure, you could argue those numbers are a wash now, but the stats don’t lie when games are on the line. Typically, the best of the best come to shine which is a hope that Toronto needs to rely on heavily.
The Blue Jackets upset in game one by a score of 3-1. We like Toronto but it generally takes their studs a few games to get up to speed.
Our picks: Toronto Maple Leafs (-152)
The Leafs are 19-7 through their last 26 after playing on three days of rest or more. They’ve also hit the Over in 15 of their last 18 against the Metropolitan Division. The Over-Under is currently set at 5.5 goals.
The Blue Jackets are 8-3 in their last 11 against the Atlantic. They’ve also hit the Under in seven of their last 10 against the division.
|Maple Leafs vs Blue Jackets Information|
|What||Toronto Maple Leafs vs Columbus Blue Jackets|
|Where||Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON|
|When||August 2, 2020 8:00 PM EST|
|How to watch||NBC Sports, Sportsnet|
The NHL’s return to play is basic and effective…so far. They’ve chosen two hub cities, set up a pair of player and team bubbles and 24 teams are participating. 12 teams from each conference will pair off and commence in a play-in knockout series to advance. Meanwhile, the top four highest seeds (by win percentage) from the regular season in the East and West are having their own little round robin to help determine the quarter final seeding.
With 36 wins and 81 points the Toronto Maple Leafs enter the new postseason format on a 5-4-1 streak through their last ten. The Jackets aren’t coming in as hot but did finish the regular season with the same amount of points as the Leafs minus three wins.
In past years, whether it be the start of the season or playoffs, the Leafs have had consistent inconsistency from their stars. Sometimes it’s Mitch Marner not showing up when the puck drops. Sometimes it’s William Nylander or goaltender Frederik Andersen.
The good news for Toronto is when these studs do show up there are few teams better on the board. When Marner, Matthews, and Tavares are firing the Leafs are hard to beat. For the longest time playing in the pressure cooker that is Toronto was always the excuse. The media, the noise, the rumors. They were always too loud. Now with empty stands and every team in the same bubble there’s absolutely nowhere to hide.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that the Leafs have perennial choke artists in the playoffs as well. For this team to truly excel they’ll need to band together and put on one heck of a performance. If one or two guys take a game or two to show up, the Leafs could be going home early. Thankfully, if that is the case, the drive won’t take that long.
Last year it was Panarin and Bobrovsky carrying the team to the postseason to shock the world with a first-round sweep of the Stanley Cup favorite Tampa Bay Lightning. This year it’s been Pierre-Luc Dubois stealing the headlines with a tandem of Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins between the pipes.
Columbus has been bounced from the playoffs the last three years in a row. They were knocked out in the first round two years straight before exiting in the second round last year. You’d think the team would be trending in the right direction but with a 33-37-15 record they’re limping into Toronto.
For the Blue Jackets to take this first game they’ll need a few things to go in their favor. First, they’ll need to catch Toronto on their notoriously slow start. Second, they’ll need team plus-minus leader Seth Jones to be sound on the back end. He’ll need to be their ‘Mr. Everything’ in this series. And finally, the Jackets will need to get the Leafs stars to buy into their game.
Toronto’s best have been known to take dumb penalties and overreact to small chirps, shoves, trips, or pokes. Columbus can win if they capitalize on special teams if and when the Leafs do slip up.
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Ryan has worked as a sports writer for the past decade and sports journalism for almost 15 years. He has worked in television, radio, print, digital, and podcasting since 2006. He is also the former co-host of the NFL Weekly Pick 'Em and Best Bets Podcast along with the Prop Drop on WSN.com.More info on Ryan Sullivan
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