KOSHAN: Leafs underachieve in series loss to Blue Jackets

Ruben Hill
August 10, 2020

Toronto is one of the better offensive teams in the league, averaging 3.39 goals per game. It's no surprise they dragged this out.

From there, the Blue Jackets were able to keep the pressure off enough and picked up a few more Korpisalo saves down the stretch before Foligno walked home an empty-net goal with 22.8 seconds to go to seal the win. It also got great goal tending from Joonas Korpisalo, who recorded 33 saves.

Already without Jake Muzzin after he was stretchered off late in Game 2, the Leafs went down to five defenceman not long after when Boone Jenner rocked Barrie in the corner.

This time it's even more frustrating. They've watched as Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Vancouver each made a run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Columbus, which rallied from a three-goal second period deficit in a 4-3 OT win in Game 3, advances to the first round, where it will meet the second-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning in a rematch of last year's first-round series.

They managed to even up the series with a comeback win in their last game and will try to take the series with a win on Sunday night.

In a surprise move, Toronto activated Andreas Johnsson from the injured reserve list shortly before the puck drop. The left wing suffered a knee injury after colliding with teammate Kasperi Kapanen and underwent surgery in the third week of February.

Columbus coach John Tortorella turned to Korpisalo in the decisive game. And Korpisalo posted his second shutout of the series, while getting got the start after Elvis Merzlikins was ruled to be unfit to play. Columbus rallied to win that one in overtime. He stopped 19 of 21 shots. Merzlikins shut out the Leafs for 56 minutes in his first-ever playoff start but unraveled and allowed three goals in the final 240 seconds, then gave up the OT victor.

The vaunted Toronto offense that finished third in the National Hockey League during the regular season was shutout twice by Joonas Korpisalo and averaged two goals per game in the series, which is hardly enough production to cover-up their ample defensive issues.

Toronto had several more good opportunities. Set up by Morgan Rielly in the right circle, and with Korpisalo out of position at the left post, Tavares rushed a shot that struck the inside of the right post and caromed back through the crease. Columbus had the advantage in shots at the first intermission at 7-6. Tavares and Matthews then came close on Korpisalo and stingy Columbus, while Foligno forced a good pad stop out of Andersen.

"This is kind of what we do", Nyquist said. "We are good and ready to play". In elimination games this year, favorites have covered the -1.5 in three of the seven series and with everything on the line, the Leafs could see a lot of the empty-net if they are leading late. Toronto will be part of the second phase of the draft lottery Monday with the seven other losers from the qualifying round.

The Blue Jackets have a big question come Sunday about who their starting goalie will be. "It's how you respond to adversity that is going to allow you to have success, especially in the playoffs". That's what makes a great team great.

The switch from Mike Babcock to Sheldon Keefe in November was made in part to get more out of a core group that began to tune the veteran coach out, but it also may have been the last chance for that group to fulfill their promise before a change in course was necessary.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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