At 3-0, I was ready to go to bed. Instead, the Toronto Maple Leafs reminded us that whether in a strange COVID-era playoff tournament or not, they are still the Toronto Maple Leafs.

This is an inexcusable loss by all measures. A weak goal against. Shoddy defense. Couldn’t close out a big lead against a team with little firepower.

The loss of Jake Muzzin hurts, but that’s no excuse. Halfway through Game 3, not only did this game look over but possibly the series as well. The Blue Jackets showed their resolve. Now we’ll see what resolve the Leafs have in a do-or-die Game 4 tomorrow night.

Onto the Game in 10.

1.  There were three great chances to start the game for the Leafs: A rebound drill in front of the net courtesy the fourth line, a John Tavares chance in the slot, and a Mitch Marner chance in the slot. A little over halfway through the period, Kasperi Kapanen was turned aside on a mini breakaway. Columbus was technically outshooting the Leafs early on, but the Leafs carried the play and generally came out flying.

That’s back-to-back games where the Leafs have come out aggressively and looked to assert their style of play on the game. It sounds like an obvious thing to want to do, but it’s very difficult against a team like Columbus that is trying to slow it right down and suck the life out of the game.

2.  It was Kyle Clifford that sent Kapanen on that breakaway, and he was causing all kinds of havoc in front of the net on a fourth-line shift in front of the Columbus net. A shift after Pierre Engvall was crushed in the ensuing scrum, Clifford went hard at Korpisalo and nobody dared to hit him after as some words were quickly exchanged.  Clifford’s minutes have been limited, but he has been impactful and noticeable (save for the first game where he played under four minutes).

Can’t ask for much more out of a fourth-liner than creating the odd chance, mixing in some physicality, and not being a liability out there. He’s a nice player to have in the mix overall.

3.  William Nylander isn’t the guy you think to put in front of the net, but his hands are so good and he’s had some great moments in tight to create goals. Most will remember his through-the-legs goal against Tampa Bay during the regular season. He has gone from a player who played the half-wall and basically the point to inflicting damage down low and in front of the net.

I still think Nylander can play the half-wall (well), but with Marner and Matthews there (rightfully so), Nylander has added a new dimension to his game, which is to be commended.

4.  In the first two games, we discussed the Leafs’ aggressive penalty kill and how Columbus has the big shot threats. This game we saw a bit of an adjustment from Columbus as they started looking to move the puck cross-ice and through the penalty kill to open up lanes instead of teeing up shots from their big players up top.  It wasn’t technically a power-play goal, but we saw with the first Pierre-Luc Dubois goal how they opened things up and finished a cross-ice play for a goal.

It also hurts the Leafs to lose Jake Muzzin in this regard, as he is their best penalty-killing defenseman. There were also a number of odd-man rush opportunities where Columbus players had the puck in the slot and passed it off to the side for the shot, trying to get Andersen to move side-to-side (including one in overtime).

5.  I know Travis Dermott received heat for the tying goal, but it was actually on Kasperi Kapanen. Kapanen was the high forward and defensemen have the green light to pinch – if it was the player on the wall that scored, it would be on Dermott, but Dermott’s man had nothing to do with the play after he chipped the puck.

Kapanen was cheating a bit offensively. It was his man to pick up, and he was watching the play on the wrong side of the puck. That said, there’s no need for Dermott to step up there in the third period with the lead. He didn’t have to do it. On his end, it is a learning experience, but in reality, it was really on Kapanen to pick up his man.

6.  You don’t want to see the Leafs go into a shell while protecting a lead, but there is also a line between going into a shell and continuing to play regular hockey. That goal was probably a bit of an example where there’s really no point in making the pinch while defending a lead. Up 3-0 and the goalie pulled, it goes without saying that the Leafs can’t blow that lead.

7.  Mitch Marner has received some criticism for his play (and some of it is definitely justified), but this was his best game of the series for me. He created a ton of chances, hit the post, set up Matthews for a chance that hit the post, and he had the puck on his stick a ton. He recorded his first point of the series, and in general, he just looked like he had his legs for once. It was nice to see.

Marner and Matthews were finding each other all night. Marner played 28 minutes on the night, leading all forwards on the team. There were a few times where Marner was making an extra move unnecessarily; if anything, you’d like to see him throw more pucks on net. Anything can happen — look at Nick Robertson.

8.  I talked about Nick Robertson last game and questioned his playing from a development standpoint. Tonight, he rewarded the team with a goal. If there’s something you have to respect, it’s his desire to get pucks on net. His goal probably should have been stopped, but when you keep putting pucks to the net, you’re going to be rewarded at some point. I wonder about his fit with two shoot-first centers, but that is a question for the following seasons, not this one.

9.  When behind, Columbus really started crashing the net, and you could see their frustration at points. At the end of the game, Boone Jenner got a good whack in on Frederik Andersen and Andersen reacted with his stick.  In overtime, Foligno drove the net and Matthews rightfully planted him on the ice. On the Seth Jones goal, the puck went through a ton of people (I still didn’t love the goal).

The Leafs generally carried the play, but Columbus generally led on the shot clock as they threw pucks on net and drove it constantly for rebounds.

10.  On the overtime goal, that was just a brutal route taken by Tyson Barrie. He has to be able to identify that a forward is going to blow past him at that pace before even crossing center.  He also has to identify where Morgan Rielly is on the ice. If Barrie skates back and cuts that off, Rielly catches the play and evens up the rush.

Throughout the year, we’ve continually said Rielly and Barrie would be a tough pairing to watch defensively, and that’s one example why. Barrie played the fifth most of any Leaf defender, so you almost feel for the coaching staff – after Rielly, Cody Ceci was second on the defense in time on ice, so that’s what they are dealing with.

The coaching staff can only work with what they have and their options are limited. You need the forwards to carry the team, and Andersen to bail out the defense constantly. In overtime, it fell short.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Game 3

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Game 3

Game Highlights: Blue Jackets 4 vs. Leafs 3 (OT)