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Photo Credit: © John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Leafs Postgame: Frederik Andersen plays good, but Joonas Korpisalo plays better

It’s official, hockey is back, and the Toronto Maple Leafs kicked off meaningful play on Sunday night with an unfortunate 2-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in game one of their Stanley Cup qualifier series. It was a hard-fought game and it has certainly set a tone for the rest of this series, as both teams are hungry to clinch their spot in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

1st Period

The first period started off fast-paced, but the shell of the pre-quarantine Leafs was still apparent, as the Blue Jackets spent a lot of time in the Leafs’ end.

Leafs fans got their first bit of excitement when Nick Robertson received a quality scoring chance out front during his very first shift. Unfortunately he couldn’t bury it, but he was certainly flying out there for the rest of the period. It’s definitely time to hop on the Nick Robertson hype train.

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Midway through the first, a fumbled pass from William Nylander to Justin Holl left Blue Jackets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois with a breakaway. However, Frederik Andersen was right there with a a big save to stop the quality chance.

The rest of the period was back-and-forth. Nearing the end of the period, Auston Matthews got two great chances with his sharp wrist-shot, but he wasn’t able to find the back of the net. The period ended scoreless, with the Leafs outshooting the Blue Jackets 11-8.

2nd Period

The themes of the second period were penalty kills and strong goaltending, as both teams failed to capitalize on power plays and both goalies put on impressive shows.

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The Leafs defence often looked thin and showed no signs of improvement since pre-quarantine hockey, giving up multiple chances for the Blue Jackets. Fortunately, Andersen impressed and was always right there to shut down multiple quality scoring chances from Columbus.

Andersen’s strong goaltending was paralleled on the other end of the ice by Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo’s equally as impressive performance. There were many quality scoring chances from both teams, but the goalies stood as tall as ever. Yet another scoreless period.

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3rd Period

Although many hockey fans fully expected this game to continue as it had been going, the game’s scoreless streak was quickly broken as soon as the third started, when a fast break Cam Atkinson wrist shot flew past Andersen. 1-0 Columbus.

The rest of the game was pretty much the same as the first two periods–the Leafs had some quality chances but couldn’t find the back of the net. The Blue Jackets sealed the game with an empty-netter and Korpisalo secured his shutout.

Most Valuable Leaf

It was a pretty uneventful game, but the Leafs best player was easily Frederik Andersen. Andersen’s known as a slow-start goaltender, but he was as sharp as ever all game, excluding the one goal he let in. Stopping 33 of 34 shots against is nothing short of impressive.

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Unfortunately, Joonas Korpisalo simply had an even better night and stole the 1-0 series lead for the Jackets. The Leafs are surely hoping their offence comes through for Andersen in game two.

Least Valuable Leaf

Mitch Marner unfortunately played a shockingly bad game for the Leafs tonight. Despite registering the team’s highest 5v5 CF% with 63.41%, he didn’t register a single shot on net, and he truly looked invisible on the ice for most of the night when he wasn’t giving the puck away.

Unfortunately, it’s big games like these where it gets difficult to justify Marner’s sizeable new contract. When the Leafs are paying him close to $11 million a year, it’s reasonable to look to him to come through with strong play when needed.

If there was one bright spot from Marner tonight, it was the following play, where he stopped an empty-net goal from going in. We’ll see how Marner responds in game two.

Tweet of the Night

Tonight’s tweet of the night comes from @TicTacTOmar on Twitter and honestly, it gave me a chuckle through the pain of the loss.

What’s Next?

The Leafs will be back for game two against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Now trailing 1-0 in the series, the Leafs will definitely look to solve their offensive woes. The Leafs roster will likely look the same, but we will have to see whether or not Sheldon Keefe will switch anything up in the next couple of days.