The Blue Jackets have been waiting at home plotting their revenge since their meeting with the Maple Leafs earlier this week, a come-from-behind 4-2 Leafs victory at Scotiabank Arena on Monday.
John Tortorella was furious after the game about what he felt was a thrown-away result in Toronto, lamenting the 3-2 winning goal by Zach Hyman for his team’s “peewee” coverage off of the lost faceoff. The Jackets had carried the first period of the game and opened up a 2-0 lead before the Leafs fought their way back starting with a key second-period contribution from the Leafs fourth line — via Tyler Ennis’ goal — followed by some magic from the Tavares line in the late second as well as in the final frame to win the game and clinch it with an empty-netter.
The Leafs will be looking to get off to a better start tonight than they did both versus Columbus at home as well as in their brutal first period against Carolina that ultimately cost them the game on Wednesday despite a good second-period response. Slow starts have been less of an issue on the road, where the Leafs are still an impressive 9-2-0, but Mike Babcock will be looking for better preparation and readiness to compete from his team tonight right from the drop of the puck.
Game Day Quotes
Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella on John Tavares:
He’s the complete deal.
Seth Jones on the Blue Jackets’ game plan to slow the Leafs down through the neutral zone:
We’ve got to do a good job with our neutral zone forecheck. The structure that we’re going to have through the neutral zone is going to be very important. Our F1 pushing and kind of clogging it up for them and not making it so free-flowing where they can cross and drop and find each other with speed all over the ice. That is when they get pretty dangerous.
Mike Babcock on playing with the puck:
Obviously, you want to have the puck. And you want to have it as far away from your end as you possibly can have it. It’s way more fun to play on offence but it’s way safer to be on offence, too. When you’re playing in your own zone too much, it makes it hard. You could see that the other night in the first period. Both teams here are good teams with good depth, lots of good players.
Babcock on puck protection at the NHL level:
I think that’s key for everyone. I think what you’re finding is when young kids get into our league, if you’re a real good player in the American League, you come here and find out the D are way bigger, the centres are way bigger. It’s not even how tall they are; it’s how heavy they are on the puck. You end up like a bug on a windshield before you learn how to protect the puck. If you don’t protect the puck, they don’t let you have it very long.
Babcock on how he feels about the Nylander situation:
I’m confident, hopeful. I mean, Willy loves hockey. I know Willy good and he’s a great teammate, a good person, and he loves hockey. He wants to play hockey, so I’m betting on that. How’s that?
John Tavares on the chemistry he’s developed with Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman:
Your spacing and your timing, and your feel for his style of play and the type of habits that he has, that’s certainly coming along. With Hymie as well, you get a real sense of just the ability to create time and space and when you can find open ice and make plays. When to get the puck to them, when to get open for them, or when to get to the net knowing they’re looking to shoot — things like that. As time continues to go on, it will only continue to feel more and more comfortable. In the last couple of weeks, I definitely feel there has been a better sense of that.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#11 Zach Hyman – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#21 Patrick Marleau – #43 Nazem Kadri – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#18 Andreas Johnsson – #26 Par Lindholm – #28 Connor Brown
#63 Tyler Ennis – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #32 Josh Leivo
#44 Morgan Rielly – #2 Ron Hainsey
#51 Jake Gardiner – #22 Nikita Zaitsev
#23 Travis Dermott – #92 Igor Ozhiganov
#31 Frederik Andersen
#40 Garret Sparks
Scratched: Justin Holl, Martin Marincin
Unsigned: William Nylander
Injured: Auston Matthews (shoulder)
Columbus Blue Jackets Projected Lines
#9 Artemi Panarin – # 18 Pierre-Luc Dubois– #13 Cam Atkinson
#71 Nick Foligno – #38 Boone Jenner – #77 Josh Anderson
#17 Brandon Dubinsky – #10 Alexander Wennberg – #91 Anthony Duclair
#45 Lukas Sedlak – #20 Riley Nash – #37 Markus Hannikainen
#27 Ryan Murray – #3 Seth Jones
#65 Markus Nutivaara – #58 David Savard
#8 Zach Werenski – #4 Scott Harrington
#72 Sergei Bobrovsky
#70 Joonas Korpisalo