The good times keep on rolling for the Toronto Maple Leafs, even despite a 2-0 deficit through 20 minutes against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night.

Your game in ten:

1.   The Leafs are suffering from some sort of psychological block on a pretty consistent basis when it comes to how they start games at home this season. They’ve now conceded the first goal in eight of 11 games at the Scotiabank Arena. We should acknowledge there are two teams on the ice and it’s likely that their opponents are gearing up to play the Leafs in Toronto on the big stage more than ever with the hype around the team now. But, for whatever reason, they’re tight and reactive early in a lot of these games.

2.  It’s not easily explained by any one thing and could just be a mentality issue across the entire team, but there are a few things I’d approach differently early in games at home.

Gardiner – Zaitsev had a rough first period, and while they didn’t do anything wrong at the very start of the game — CBJ iced the puck after the first 10 seconds and they were pulled off the ice for the next matchup — I would still get away from starting the Gardiner – Zaitsev pairing as often as Mike Babcock seems to at home.

Babcock also pulled his starting unit off the ice after the icing 13 seconds in and put the Par Lindholm unit out. I’d just put my power unit out — my best five, which is clearly the Tavares-Marner line and the Rielly pairing — and not worry about what the other team is doing at this point. Just put your best five-man unit on the ice and off you go. The Leafs don’t need to let anybody dictate the terms early in their own building with the calibre of five-man unit they can put out there to set the tone and establish a rhythm.

Zach Hyman is the type of player who can establish an early forecheck and getting Mitch Marner, an infectious energizer bunny, fired up early is never a bad idea knowing he’s been crushing gummy bears and snorting crushed-up rocket candies from the Marleau kids’ leftover Halloween baskets before the game.

3.  With the four-man combo of Rielly, Marner, Tavares and Hyman on the ice, the Leafs have outscored the opposition 12-5 at 5v5 this season.

One of those goals was tonight’s game-winner off of a creative play on the face-off where Hyman took the draw back to Tavares and went straight to the net. The way Babcock talked about the play after the game, it sounds like something the line has been working on together versus a directive from the bench for Hyman to take the draw on his strong side there (Babcock said it like he had no idea they were going to do it).

Babcock allows his players a lot of freedom to be creative in the offensive zone as part of the bargain he has with players — “do as I say in the d-zone and neutral zone and the offensive zone is all yours,” kind of thing.

4.  The Leafs third and fourth lines continue to contribute and were instrumental in getting them going in this game. The Tavares line was not up to much in the matchup against the Columbus top line in the first period and the Nazem Kadri line was off all night, so Babcock swapped the Lindholm line in there for quite a few shifts against Dubois, Atkinson and Panarin. While they were outshot pretty handily in that matchup, the line only gave up one scoring chance by Natural Stat Trick’s count and created three of their own in Lindholm’s nine or so minutes up against Dubois (4 for and 1 against vs. Panarin), and the shot attempts were pretty much even.

L3 also really should’ve scored on Connor Brown’s chance that hit the post early in the first period after good puck pursuit in the offensive zone as a unit before crashing the net with bodies in front.

5.  The fourth line was the one unit that created a bit of a spark early with Tyler Ennis ringing the iron, and it was their 2-1 goal that started the comeback. That goal was the line working as it should in the offensive zone — Frederik Gauthier ungracefully bulling his way to the slot with a defender hanging onto him, Josh Leivo occupying attention in front, and Ennis providing a waterbug among the trees, darting in and out, digging out pucks, and creating something with the puck on his stick.

6.  A lot of credit goes out to Tyler Ennis for how he’s battled through and rounded into good form of late in a fourth-line situation. I wasn’t sure he could check well enough knowing that he lost his spot in Minnesota in a similar role and also looking at some of his past defensive numbers, but he’s tracking back much better through the neutral zone and is more engaged physically in the defensive zone. When Babcock talks about how hard it can be to earn your confidence back in this league, Ennis is a prime example as someone who has had to put his head down and earn it back the hard way, but he’s healthy again and looks like he’s got some of his Sabre-era tenacity back. It’s obvious the guys love him in the room, too, and it helps your case if you can provide that kind of glue element as a depth/role player.

7.  Running out of superlatives for Frederik Andersen’s play in these reviews. I’ll let Babcock take this one way, “Without Freddy, [the comeback] just doesn’t happen.”

He’s so quiet in the net right now. There is zero excess movement from him in the crease. Big, square, on his angle always, reading everything 2-3 moves ahead, finding pucks through traffic, giving out few second opportunities, strong on his post (even when the refs gave Dubois and Anderson free rein to jam away for 5-10 seconds)… He’s got it all going on.

8.  Travis Dermott was outstanding in this game, even beyond the high standard he’s set for himself of late. Settling plays down and providing a one-man breakout, controlling the tempo with the puck on his stick, showing great lower-body strength in his physical battles, getting to the bench on one skate faster than I thought humanly possible (the thigh strength required there…). 15:42 in time on ice seems like much too little.

9.  The 2-2 John Tavares goal was one of my favourite goals of the season so far, a copy more or less of Marner’s dangle on Dustin Byfuglien that set up JT in a similar situation against Winnipeg, although this one gets the edge because it started with a great stretch pass from Kapanen from just above his own goal line.

This Tavares (on pace: 51 goals, 98 points) and Marner (on pace: 86 assists, 109 points) duo has some of the top-five franchise all-time marks in their sights, particularly the Marner assists rate, even allowing for some inevitable regression there.

10.  Consistency is the elusive goal every team is striving for in the NHL, but the Leafs’ performance level has been about as good as it gets that way at this point in the season over the past eight games. They’ve had six good wins and then split their two back-to-backs as the tired team versus a rested opponent. They leaned on Andersen a little more than they should’ve early on tonight, but there have been a lot of three or four-line performances of late where the team has been executing at a pretty high level and putting in strong, even efforts from game to game. The mark of a really good team, they’ve won a lot of games in a lot of different ways.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Condensed Game

With notes from Declan Kerin