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Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Maple Leafs Pregame #2: Five things to watch for against the BJs

Riding that high of an opening night win, the Leafs are taking their act on the road for the Blue Jackets home opener in Columbus. While it would be easy to point out that this is a very stripped down Blue Jackets team with little hope for the future, it’s also still a team with Zach Werenski and Seth Jones on the blueline, so perhaps that will be the interesting challenge.

I had to double check and apparently Joonas Korpisalo IS in fact their opening night starter, so I greet that with both a “Yikes”, and a sense of optimism and worry. The optimism comes from the fact he’s very new to the starting role, is a career .907 Sv% goaltender, with two years removed from being about .900. The worry comes from the fact that history shows this is the kind of situation the Leafs routinely fail to take advantage of and Korpisalo was highly touted at one point and there’s always the chance he’s chosen tonight to break out.

What’s really confusing is how I picked the Blue Jackets to make the playoffs, but you’ve read my writing. You know I’m an idiot.

Projected Lines

LW C RW Forwards
Kasperi Kapanen
KASPERI KAPANEN

Rating: 73.4#61 LW

John Tavares
JOHN TAVARES

Rating: 79.3#13 C

Mitch Marner
MITCH MARNER

Rating: 77.8#10 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 76.79#17 FL1
Andreas Johnsson
ANDREAS JOHNSSON

Rating: 74.2#45 LW

Auston Matthews
AUSTON MATTHEWS

Rating: 80.4#6 C

William Nylander
WILLIAM NYLANDER

Rating: 73.3#49 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 75.95#4 FL2
Ilya Mikheyev
ILYA MIKHEYEV

Rating: 73.8#50 LW

Alexander Kerfoot
ALEXANDER KERFOOT

Rating: 72.0#101 C

Trevor Moore
TREVOR MOORE

Rating: 72.6#59 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 72.78#9 FL3
Nic Petan
NIC PETAN

Rating: 68.9#140 LW

Jason Spezza
JASON SPEZZA

Rating: 72.1#96 C

Frederik Gauthier
FREDERIK GAUTHIER

Rating: 69.5#106 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 70.20#25 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Morgan Rielly
MORGAN RIELLY

Rating: 77.4#5 LD

Cody Ceci
CODY CECI

Rating: 71.3#84 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 74.38#22 DL1
Jake Muzzin
JAKE MUZZIN

Rating: 74.7#27 LD

Tyson Barrie
TYSON BARRIE

Rating: 76.9#17 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 75.78#2 DL2
Rasmus Sandin
RASMUS SANDIN

Rating: 73.7#50 LD

Martin Marincin
MARTIN MARINCIN

Rating: 72.3#66 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 73.03#12 DL3

Note that Justin Holl will be in for Marincin.

LW C RW Forwards
Alexandre Texier
ALEXANDRE TEXIER

Rating: 73.7#60 LW

Pierre-Luc Dubois
PIERRE-LUC DUBOIS

Rating: 76.5#27 C

Cam Atkinson
CAM ATKINSON

Rating: 79.6#4 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 76.59#18 FL1
Nick Foligno
NICK FOLIGNO

Rating: 72.6#79 LW

Boone Jenner
BOONE JENNER

Rating: 73.3#64 C

Josh Anderson
JOSH ANDERSON

Rating: 73.4#59 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 73.09#22 FL2
Gustav Nyquist
GUSTAV NYQUIST

Rating: 74.3#44 LW

Alexander Wennberg
ALEXANDER WENNBERG

Rating: 70.2#144 C

Oliver Bjorkstrand
OLIVER BJORKSTRAND

Rating: 74.8#28 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 73.11#8 FL3
Jakob Lilja
JAKOB LILJA
Riley Nash
RILEY NASH

Rating: 69.9#154 C

Emil Bemstrom
EMIL BEMSTROM
FL4 Rating
Rating: 69.92#29 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Ryan Murray
RYAN MURRAY

Rating: 74.4#35 LD

Seth Jones
SETH JONES

Rating: 80.2#3 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 77.32#3 DL1
Zach Werenski
ZACH WERENSKI

Rating: 76.9#8 LD

David Savard
DAVID SAVARD

Rating: 73.9#36 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 75.37#5 DL2
Scott Harrington
SCOTT HARRINGTON

Rating: 69.9#114 LD

Markus Nutivaara
MARKUS NUTIVAARA

Rating: 72.5#61 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 71.21#28 DL3

Now some things to think about…

1. Jason Spezza’s Leafs Debut

Just as he always dreamed, Spezza will be putting on a Leafs jersey in front of possible distant 23andme verified family in Columbus, Ohio. It’s not the home opener, but Spezza is getting a chance to play. The downside for him seems that he’s going to be mainly used on the road this year because he doesn’t fit in with Babcock’s line matching plans (Seriously, who line matches the fourth line in October?)

Anyway, here’s hoping that Spezza can demonstrate that he still has some good hockey left in him, as getting as much possible upside out his league minimum contract should be in everyone’s best interest and there’s no doubt that a motivated Spezza could have the most upside of the potential fourth liner group, even ahead of Timashov and Petan.

Speaking of Petan…

2. Oh look, it’s Justin Holl and Nic Petan

On a positive note, last year’s permanent press box fixtures are getting a chance to show what they can do early this year.

I wouldn’t doubt that Paul is right here, but with the added pleasant complication of both Hyman and Dermott returning shortly after that point.

My guess is that Petan will be up with the Leafs until the last possible minute before he requires waivers again, so he’ll either get 10 games or 30 days with the Leafs which ever comes first to show he belongs. That’s one hell of an uphill battle, but he looked good in training camp and injuries do happen, so let’s see how things shake out for him.

Holl has a bit more time as Dermott isn’t expected back as soon, and has the added chance to stick if Rasmus Sandin is in fact on a nine game tryout and not a Leaf for the season. If Sandin is only going to play 8 minutes a night, I’d probably lean towards the tryout at this point, even though Sandin should be getting a bigger workload.

3. Andersen is in net?

This seems odd, given that this part of back to back games, and it would make sense to start him at home on a Saturday night against Montreal. Though Mike Babcock is a damned stubborn man, and his trend has been to always use Andersen on the first half of the back to back and sit him the next night regardless.

Additionally it’s only the first week of the season and I am curious if Babcock’s going to start Andersen both games as a “screw you” to everyone pointing out the benefits of managing his goaltender’s workload.

4. Can Matthews keep up his 164 goal pace?

I mean, there’s got to at least be a chance that he doesn’t start regressing against this Blue Jackets lineup, but perhaps that is too greedy. I’d also settle for John Tavares getting his name on the score sheet.

5. Alex Kerfoot watch

This is extremely premature but through the preseason and the first game I’m still very much on the fence about Alex Kerfoot. It’s not his fault that he was quickly converted to center and he’s going to need time to adjust to the role, but I think we might get a rocky start, as evident from his opening night…

via NaturalStatTrick.com

Not that a low event third line is a bad thing, but it would be nice to see something out of Kerfoot soon and perhaps I’m judging him a bit more harshly because of the strong performances of Ilya Mikheyev and Tyson Barrie.

Puck drop for tonight’s game is 7:00PM ET (probably later because Columbus will do an opening night ceremony) and it can be seen in Ontario on TSN 4.