In a five-game playoff series, there is no time to feel sorry for yourself or go through the motions.

Down 1-0 in the series, the Toronto Maple Leafs came out focused, brought a sense of urgency, and dominated the game. The score flattered Columbus, to put it mildly.

A number of Toronto players had strong redemption games, and while this series is by no means close to being over, this is why the Maple Leafs were generally favoured to win. Columbus simply doesn’t have the star power to match up with them, and it showed in Game 2.

To the game in 10:

1.  The Leafs got off to a great start to this game. They were physical, urgent, fired the first six shots on goal of the game, earned an early power play, and broke through the neutral zone with relative ease.

Kyle Clifford laid a tone-setting hit on Dean Kukan and won a number of battles on the forecheck – he played more in this game than in Game 1, although he was still under seven minutes total (I think he can handle more).

Kasperi Kapanen made an early impact by drawing two penalties in the first period, and while he isn’t lighting up the scoresheet, he was solid in Game 1 and was solid in the playoffs last year as well. He has consistently shown he can play in big, tight-checking games and make positive contributions. When the Leafs were struggling this past winter, Kapanen also went on a little run of fighting, hitting, and producing to get the team going.

2.  The biggest adjustment by the Leafs was obvious – they stretched the neutral zone. Wingers were hanging around center ice when the Leafs defensemen possessed the puck below the hashmarks, and they were making tip plays (dump-ins and tip passes to forwards with speed through the neutral zone). It’s a nice adjustment to open up the game a bit and break up the clogged neutral zone — one that paid off as the Leafs outshot Columbus and generally dictated play.

The Leafs also regrouped less. They played in more straight lines, on their toes, and attacked the play. In the process, they were way more aggressive and pressured the Columbus defense more consistently. Regrouping plays into the Columbus neutral-zone trap and allows them to slow the game down to their desired pace.

3.  Through two games, I am very torn on Nick Robertson. On one hand, I completely get it — he has the skill to and shot to score (which would clearly be huge in this series) and his skating is definitely there.

The physicality is not, though. He is getting ragged around the ice, including a borderline hit from behind by Nick Foligno that made me pause with concern for a second (he got up and was fine). The NHL is not a development league, and rushing players in the playoffs is not necessarily a good way to bring up young players. You can find examples either way: Chris Kreider started in the playoffs and has turned into a nice player, while Sam Bennett has not.

The Leafs don’t really have better options, but that doesn’t mean you throw out the young kid to get smacked around each game and barely play, because that’s not proper development. On the power play, he did look dangerous, but he also looked off players in better shooting positions, saw his shots blocked, and took a needless penalty. It really isn’t the time to learn how to play in the league.

4.  Feelings on Robertson aside, it is somewhat surprising to see him on the power play unit over any of Jason Spezza, Ilya Mikheyev, or Zach Hyman. Spezza is an established scorer in this league that was having a productive season. Robertson is playing in the spot where Spezza would be on his one-timer side – he was on the power play regularly as well, but on one-man advantage, Matthews stayed out the whole time and it was Robertson on over Spezza.

Yes, Robertson has a great shot, but so does Spezza. Mikheyev is a top-six forward at 5v5, but he can’t crack the PP over a rookie that has never played in the league?  Hyman is one of the Leafs’ only good net-front players against a goalie that is stopping everything he sees cleanly.

5.  John Tavares really struggled in Game 1, but what a response from him today — he was all over the ice in Game 2. He led the team in shots on goal, including a significant quantity of high-quality scoring chances (many of which he was robbed on), and he was strong both on the forecheck and in front of the net on the power play. Eventually, he was rewarded with a great breakaway goal. That was a really strong bounce-back game from the captain.

6.  That was a big save by Frederik Andersen on a mini Zach Werenski breakaway with a few minutes left in the second period to hold the Leafs’ lead going into the third. He wasn’t tested much overall in Game 2, but he was solid when called into action. These games are really tricky for goalies – the other guy is standing on his hand while your team dominates, and then you’re randomly called upon to make a big save after minutes of not seeing the puck. Great response game by Andersen.

7.  Regular readers of my column over the years will know that I have trumpeted Zach Hyman on the right side (his strong side). Well, there he was tonight, making a great pass to Matthews to open the scoring as the Leafs finally got one by Joonas Korpisalo. He also made a really nice play to lift David Savard’s stick leading to a Matthews – Marner 2v1.

After the Game 1 loss, Hyman talked about the intensity of the playoffs and the battle level required. He brought it in Game 2. He is giving up a lot of size in the corners against the bigger Columbus defenders — and is getting pushed around a bit — but you can never question the work ethic.

8.  I was expecting a big push by Columbus to start the third, but the Auston Matthews line started, he won the faceoff, they got the puck in deep, and they promptly went back to work. Matthews then drew a penalty.  Matthews has been very good through two games and it was nice to see the Leafs come out with a purpose for the final frame even when in the lead.

The one glaring problem today was really the Leafs’ power play. They are really searching for answers and confidence there. At some point, they have to consider shaking up these units. Morgan Rielly over Tyson Barrie is the obvious choice — and frankly, that’s how the playoffs should have started. One was more productive than the other on the power play the past two seasons and is under contract for the next two years, but he’s not the one receiving the top-unit responsibilities.

The second unit could use a bit of a shakeup as well – Hyman, in particular, was great in front of the net. Those are the goals the Leafs will need at some point.

9.  It could have easily been 1-1 at one point in the third period, but Zach Werenski fanned on the puck and made a questionable overall decision on that rush. That is the exact type of hockey Columbus wants to avoid — and the exact type of hockey the Leafs want to play. Toronto will gladly trade chances and open the game up – short of Korpisalo going absolutely nuclear, they will win those games fairly consistently. Columbus just doesn’t even come close to having the firepower to compete with the Leafs if they trade chances.

10.  With roughly five-and-a-half minutes left Columbus went to the power play with an opportunity to make it a game. The Leafs penalty kill — led by their top unit of Hyman, Marner, Muzzin, and Holl — surrendered no shots on net. Columbus promptly got another power-play (on a call that was so brutal that it needs to be mentioned here), and Muzzin had a huge shot block, Marner stonewalled Columbus on an attempted zone entry, and Holl won a battle leading to another clear.

The penalty kill has been aggressive and excellent so far, which we pointed out after Game 1 as well. It’s a major (positive) storyline so far for the Leafs in a series where their opponent struggles to produce 5v5 offense. Kudos to the penalty killers for finishing the game strong.

Last but not least, I want to take a second to wish Jake Muzzin a full and speedy recovery. It looked like a bit of an innocuous play at first, but frighteningly, he ended up stretchered off the ice in a completely silent arena. It was tough to watch. His health is the most important thing here.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Game 2

Game Highlights: Leafs 3 vs. Blue Jackets 0