The Toronto Maple Leafs may return to play against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
If you’re reading a Toronto Maple Leafs site two-and-a-half months after the NHL shut down, odds are you already know all about the NHL’s proposed 24 team format.
So without re-hashing the details or the pros and cons, let’s just say that under the proposed (and as of yet unofficial) format, the Leafs will be playing the Columbus Blue Jackets in a best of five series.
So let’s get to know the Blue Jackets.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs the Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets finished the regular season with a record of 33-22-15, good for the same 81 points in 70 games that the Leafs had.
The Leafs did win three more games, while the Jackets relied heavily on the loser point.
This might lead you to think that this is an even match-up, but you would be mistaken.
The Leafs should have a much higher point total (injuries, bad luck, coaching change, some of the worst goaltending in the NHL) while the Blue Jackets are underrated, but also heavily propped up by a series of unsustainably hot goalies.
The Blue Jackets rank 5th overall in 5v5 save percentage, while the Leafs rank 28th.
Despite this, and because the Leafs outscored the Jackets by 38 goals (!), the Leafs have a +11 goal differential while the Jackets have a -7 goal differential.
This is for the whole season, but to truly get an idea of how these teams compare, we need to look at stats starting on November 21st, the Leafs first game with new coach Sheldon Keefe.
This has to be done because the Leafs radically changed their play style and were the 8th best team from that point on, despite getting terrible goaltending and suffering among the worst run of injuries in the NHL.
Corsi-For %: Leafs 8th Blue Jackets 18th
Shots For% Leafs 13th Blue Jackets 8th
Expected Goals for %: Leafs 5th, Blue Jackets 9th
High Danger Scoring Chance %: Leafs 8th Blue Jackets 15th (All stats naturalstattrick.com).
Keep in mind that the Leafs put up these numbers over a 47 game period in which their best defenseman (an elite top 10 NHL defenseman who should be the current defending Norris Trophy winner) missed 23 of those games.
In nine of those games, the Toronto Maple Leads played without both Rielly and Jake Muzzin.
They even played one game in which they were missing Rielly, Muzzin, Andreas Johnsson, William Nylander, Cody Ceci and Freddie Andersen, which is just ridiculous.
That’s half their starting blue-line, two thirds of their first line, and their starting goalie.
The Leafs will be fully healthy (with, I assume, the exception of Andreas Johnsson), and Andersen is definitely a better goalie than the one who helped the Leafs finish in the low 20s in 5v5 save percentage.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are several levels above the Blue Jackest and should have no trouble destroying them.
This is, however, the NHL, so no promises. In a series where the best playoff team faced the worst playoff team, the worst team would win at least three out of seven times.
Plus, goalies are a major factor. Getting “goalied” is almost a Toronto Maple Leafs tradition at this point.
Still, the Leafs are an elite team, that is, at worst, top five in the NHL (I’d say about four spots higher, actually) while the Blue Jackets probably don’t make the playoffs very often if you simulated this season a million times.
Leafs should win easily, but……