The Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets are among the most intriguing matchup of the NHL’s qualifying round.
If we take a look at the roster buildup of both teams as a whole, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets are almost the inverse of each other.
Toronto is offensively dominant.
Columbus is more focused on defense.
Toronto is supposedly weak defensively.
Columbus is weak offensively.
Toronto is a team that thrives when the score is high.
Columbus is a team that thrives when the score is low.
The Blue Jackets Goal
The Toronto Maple Leafs are quite clearly overall the more talented team in this matchup. If you pull up Columbus’ starting lineup and stack it against the Leafs starting lineup, I think most people would be able to notice that one team has far more firepower.
However, this is not to say that anyone should be putting money on the Leafs because that’s not how hockey works. Especially in a 5 game series. Anything could happen. Hockey is a very random sport because there are so many wonky things that can alter the outcome of a game that is uncontrollable, and one player – the goalie – has an over-sized impact compared to the rest of the players.
Since Columbus lost the bulk of their offensive talent last offseason (hart trophy candidate Panarin), head coach John Tortorella was tasked with massively revamping the gameplan of the Blue Jackets.
With much success, Tortorella (Jack Adams finalist) has been able to put together one of the best defensive structures in the league.
From an average defensive team in 2018-2019 to a top 3 defensive team this season, Tortorella deserves a lot of praise for what he has done with a roster that doesn’t appear to be too special on paper.
The Leafs desperately need to take the Blue Jackets seriously, because they will be a hassle to play against. The Leafs will have to really work hard to get shots from dangerous areas of the ice. Unless the goaltending is atrocious, I don’t expect there to be many high scoring games in this series.
Essentially the Blue Jackets objective will be to limit every offensive opportunity the Leafs have, and capitalize on the Leafs mistakes, ideally playing a lower event style.
While the inverse is the Leafs gameplan.
The Leafs would prefer a high scoring game that bets on the Leafs shooters to outscore the other team’s shooters by playing a high-risk style that leans on offense first.
The Blue Jackets will try and force the fast-paced Leafs to slow down and catch them off-guard.
The Blue Jackets will try to make the game as close as possible and bet on some form of lucky bounces to find its way into the net.
Essentially if the talent disparity overall between the two teams is 60-40 for the Leafs, the Blue Jackets will make it closer to a 51-49 with their playstyle.
If we take a look at one of the best public probability simulation models from moneypuck.com, it predicts the Leafs have a 52.7% chance of beating the Blue Jackets in the series.
Now if you were thinking of putting $1000 on the Toronto Maple Leafs winning, just think there’s a 47.3% chance all of the money could be gone. In an extreme example, if there would a 40% chance of a crash every time you hopped on a plane, I assume that no one sane would ever hop on a plane.
My point is, this series is going to be an extremely close one just based on how the Blue Jackets play and this isn’t a slam dunk for either team.
Even if the Leafs have superior talent, there is still a lot that could go wrong. It only takes 3 games and you’re’ out indefinitely. No one should be overly enthusiastic about either team having a shot at winning the series. Especially with the way Columbus plays.
On the 31 thoughts podcast, Elliot Friedman said, “I don’t know if Columbus respects Toronto, I think they respect their skill, but I don’t know if they respect their will.”. To me, this quote just makes the buildup even more exciting, August 2nd can not come any sooner.