It was nice to have Leafs hockey back, even if it was a bit of a boring game against a bad hockey team.

Two points are two points, and the Leafs took care of business tonight. It took the Leafs some time to find the insurance marker, but once they did, this game was over. Columbus barely threatened down the stretch.

We now have to watch the Leafs play this Blue Jackets team again on Saturday night, followed by three days off and then a game against Chicago. Not the best scheduling.

Your game in 10:

1.   This game got off to a predictably slow start. It looked like two teams that were just returning from vacation (which they were). The first few shifts were typical of two teams getting their legs underneath them, and then Zach Aston-Reese took a penalty in the offensive zone while forechecking due to some carelessness with his stick.

Columbus — who has the 29th-ranked power play — really struggled to generate much of anything after an initial cross-ice play to Patrik Laine. A few minutes later, the Leafs went on a power play of their own and cashed in.

John Tavares forced a turnover off of Vladislav Gavrikov (who really should’ve been stronger on the puck there), Mitch Marner picked up the puck in the slot, and Marner made a beautiful saucer pass that Tavares deflected in.

2.   There were a few things of note in the first period. Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin both threw big hits in the opening frame — Liljegren crunched a Blue Jacket hard along the boards, and Sandin laid a big open-ice hit. Sandin was then retaliated against, drawing a penalty for his troubles.

It was amusing to watch Morgan Rielly stand up and get vocal on the bench (the hit was right in front of the Toronto bench). There has been a lot of talk about the Leafs‘ interest in adding a defenseman; the veteran top four are all going to be in the lineup (even if the pairings are shifted around), but Sandin and Liljegren, on the other hand, could possibly lose their spots.

Sandin went down hurt and didn’t play in the playoffs last season. Liljegren played all of the last regular season and then appeared in just one playoff game. They are, in part, playing to prove themselves in crunch time. Both amped up the physicality in this game.

3.   Natural Stat Trick recorded the Leafs ahead in scoring chances (10-4) and high-danger chances (5-0) in the first. William Nylander went on a breakaway at one point and tried to go backhand-forehand-five hole, but Joonas Korpisalo pulled off a nice save. Nylander’s move was probably dictated by where he was on the ice when he picked up the puck, but we typically see Nylander go forehand-backhand-shelf in those situations.

Alex Steeves also had a grade-A chance in the slot courtesy of a Pontus Holmberg forecheck and passing play. Steeves brings a nice shot in the arm in terms of energy, but the big question is: What repeatable skill can he bring on a night-to-night basis?

4.  The goalies stole the show in the second period.

First, it was Joonas Korpisalo. The Leafs pushed to extend the lead and went on an early power play, to boot. Nylander tried to rip a one-timer through, but to be honest, the pass from Morgan Rielly was too slow. By the time it made it to Nylander, everyone was waiting for the shot.

Nylander went on another breakaway, but with two Blue Jackets breathing down his neck, he pulled it to the backhand and wasn’t able to elevate the puck. He also walked in alone and tried to flip it short side, but he just missed the net.

Timothy Liljegren also went on an end-to-end rush and walked in alone, but he ran out of space. Alex Kerfoot broke in for a chance, but he floated a puck right into Korpisalo’s chest. The Columbus goaltender didn’t even move — in fairness, neither did any Leafs fan watching Kerfoot there.

Zach Aston-Reese also had a shorthanded chance on a 2v1 with Pierre Engvall, but he was robbed.

5.   At the other end, it was a tough game if you’re Ilya Samsonov. The Blue Jackets put six shots on net in the first frame. The Leafs started the second period on the power play and then got another one shortly after, but by the end of the second period, Columbus put 15 shots on net in the period.

The best chance went to Johnny Gaudreau, who took a pass in the slot and just missed on his backhand. Samsonov also pulled off a splits save toward the end of the period.

Did Samsonov need to be a stud tonight? No, but it’s one of those games where it could’ve easily swung in the other direction. He was not getting much action and the Leafs weren’t able to break through (yet), but Samsonov maintained the lead very nicely.

It certainly helped that the Leafs took a double-minor penalty but still generated the best scoring chance over the subsequent four minutes (the Zach Aston-Reese 2v1).

6.  In the third period, the Leafs finally broke this game open. Right after Calle Jarnkrok missed a chance on a 2v1 with William Nylander (it looked like he should have shot it right away), it started feeling like they were going to make this game a lot more painful than it needed to be. But they stayed patient and eventually scored a beautiful goal to open this game right up.

After Joey Anderson and David Kampf provided some nice work on the forecheck to create a turnover, Pierre Engvall recovered the puck and passed it off to the high slot to David Kampf, who made a nice backhand dish as Morgan Rielly streaked in off the point. Rielly ripped a pass cross-ice to Engvall, who had a wide-open net to score into.

That kind of offensive aggressiveness and vision are what Rielly can bring to the table offensively.

7.   Speaking of Leafs players at their best: John Tavares scored again, only this time it was a classic Tavares wrister from the slot that he ripped into the top shelf. It was a no-doubter.

Of course, as we have seen many times since he arrived here, the goal came off a Mitch Marner pass — as did the first Tavares goal tonight. This time, Marner made a beautiful through-the-legs drop pass that went through a bunch of traffic and landed right on Tavares’ tape.

The captain is up to 23 goals this season, and as long as he stays healthy, he should easily hit the 30-goal mark for the second time as a Leaf (the first being his 47-goal season in his first year with the team).

8.   Sometimes, when playing against a trade candidate on the other team, the player has a game that screams, “Here’s what I can do. Come get me.” This was not that kind of game for Vladislav Gavrikov.

He was weak on the first goal against and on the ice for the other two as well, although he wasn’t really to blame for the others. He also took a dumb penalty. He was walked by Timothy Liljegren (?!), and for good measure, he was robbed by Ilya Samsonov in the third.

Gavrikov is a much better player than this, and it certainly hurts his cause playing on a Columbus team that appears to be participating in a toe-drag contest en route to scoring zero goals (and ranking as one of the worst offensive teams in the league). Still, this was a stinker from Gavrikov. We’ll see how he responds tomorrow night.

9.   I mentioned Ilya Samsonov in the second period, and while the final frame was much quieter, he’s deserving of full marks for how he played in this one. He deserved the shutout. He was rock solid.

If the Leafs were facing a good team tomorrow, I’d suggest it was a light enough night for Samsonov to play again tomorrow, but truly, what’s the point? If nothing else, I want to see Joseph Woll receive an opportunity anyway.

10.   So, Johnny Gaudreau took less money to come to this Columbus team? I understand there is a personal and family side to this decision, but hockey-wise — and financially — it’s an all-time bad decision.

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts