LGD: From Love to Lumbus

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Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY SPORTS

Last night was a lot of fun, but now the Leafs have to jump right onto the ice once again. Tonight, they’ll take on the Columbus Blue Jackets, who aren’t as invincible as they were a month ago, and are also an opponent that aren’t super familiar to this group; just four Leafs were in the lineup for the last matchup between these two teams, less than a year ago. Here’s what’s about to go down.

The Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs lines courtesy of Daily Faceoff

Nikita Soshnikov is ready to go tonight, but after Josh Leivo picked up three points, there was no way that Mike Babcock was going to take him out of the lineup, so he’ll stay in. Everything is the exact same on the skater front.

The Blue Jackets

Columbus Blue Jackets lines courtesy of Daily Faceoff

I’m not really going to break down the Jackets roster here; we’ve all heard so much about it during their massive winning streak. The fourth line rules, Cam Atkinson and Alexander Wennberg are two examples of “for real” players who haven’t gotten as much credit as the average top-notch Eastern Conference forward, and Zach Werenski is one of those other really good rookies who sometimes gets overshadowed by the big three.

Instead of reading me break their group down, read this post from Aaron Portzline on David Clarkson. I’ve always been a fan of Clarkson as a person, which made his time in Toronto bittersweet. He’s in rough shape now, though, as he’s suffering through the same long-term back injury that Nathan Horton is. That’s okay for the Blue Jackets from a team building perspective, given that his contract is insured while Horton’s wasn’t, but you still have to can’t help but feel bad for the guy.

Starting Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to start for the Blue Jackets. He’s been really hit and miss in the past few weeks, posting a 0.890 save percentage in eight games since January 24th. He’s still a 0.925 on the season, though, so they shouldn’t treat him like chopped liver. Maybe the World Cup crew still has the book on him from September; Nikita Zaitsev could probably give some tips.

Curtis McElhinney will get the start for the Leafs, against the team that waived him. He’s been stellar for the Leafs since coming over, posting a 0.935 over 4 games. He was 0.924 over seven with Columbus as well, but outside of this year, there’s never been much reason to think that he could maintain it. Hopefully, he can hold that run of form for another night, at least?

What To Look Out For

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The dirty secret in the room is that the Blue Jackets aren’t quite what they were when the standings chart said “W16” next to it. Since the Washington Capitals stole their power on January 5th, they’ve gone 8-10-1, including a 3-5-1 stretch since Bobrovsky’s cold streak started.

Are they cooked? Are the old Jackets back? Probably not. Is this going to be a hard game, especially given that the Leafs just spent a bunch of energy throwing the Islanders through a brick wall last night? Definitely.

But is it winnable? Probably more than given credit for. Puck drop is at 7PM; catch it on Sportsnet.