Thankfully, the NHL is back with instant seeding playoffs. The Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs will face off in the qualifying round.
The Maple Leafs have used their top pick for offense these past few drafts. They rely heavily on their ability to score.
They also get the benefit of the seeding games being played in their hometown. Toronto got their NBA championship last season, but it is still a hockey town.
They will be playing Nick Robertson, who will be making his NHL debut in this game. He will be the first 18-year-old to make his debut in the playoffs since 1996.
“We’re anxious to see how he can handle it,” Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “I believe he is prepared and ready for it. That’s why we are confident in putting him in.”
He is coming off a stellar season in the minors, so the team thought it was time to call him up. Their coach will have a decision to make as they have used two players as goaltenders for the entire season.
Toronto is sound in its ability to limit goal chances. But the question remains whether or not they will be able to create scoring chances themselves.
Just as the offense has been the story for the Maple Leafs, is the defense that gives an edge to the Blue Jackets. Columbus will ride goaltending and steady redline play to stay in this series.
“It’s a mind-set. It’s a willingness to do it,” head coach John Tortorella said. “You look at Toronto, they’re filled right through their lines with offensive people, very similar to our first-round opponent last year in Tampa. We have got to decide to have the right mind-set and do the dirty work and the mental part of it as far as being above the puck all the time.”
The Blue Jackets are accustomed the opening the playoffs against one of the highest-scoring teams in the league.
“I think the thing we talked about before the game, we just wanted to concentrate on some checking as far as playing away from the puck,” Tortorella said.
Even though the Leafs have a great offense, they need to prevent goals better than they did during the season. Toronto’s penalty kill has been far from impressive, ranking 21st in the league.
Sunday night’s game will pit offense vs. defense. Toronto is a homegrown team that will try to make a run in the playoffs.
I don’t believe that the Blue Jackets have enough pieces to stop Toronto from scoring. The Maple Leafs have used the past couple of years to draft some of the top prospects in hockey.
I am going to ride the better offense in this series. Fans are happy that the NHL is back, so hopefully, this series can be a show.
But if much scoring happens, it is better for the Maple Leafs.