Toronto looks to silence the Columbus cannon: Leafs Tailgate
By Nick Alberga1 month ago
After a nine-day break, finally, and I mean finally, the Leafs (31-13-8) will be back in action tonight when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets (15-32-4) for the front end of a home and home.
Sheldon Keefe’s squad has been off since February 1st when they fell 5-2 to the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Arena. Furthermore, Toronto is 1-2-0 in three outings since Auston Matthews left the lineup.
Meantime, it’s been a nightmare season for the Jackets who made massive headlines last summer when they landed Johnny Gaudreau – the big fish – in free agency. Yeah, about that. Columbus, who’s dropped three in a row and four of five, is currently last place in the entire NHL with 34 points. For context, Toronto has 70 points.
As mentioned, the two teams will square off tomorrow night as well at Scotiabank Arena. They split their two game season series in 2021-22.
TIME: 7 PM ET (TSN)
TOR Ilya Samsonov – CONFIRMED (17-6-2, 2.34, 0.913, 2 SO)
CBJ Elvis Merzlikins – CONFIRMED (8-9-3, 3.30, 0.908)
REST VS RUST
This one’s a simple, and quite frankly, it probably applies to both teams. Early on, it’s important to keep things simple. If there’s one thing we’ve seen since the NHL returned from the All-Star break, it’s rust and sloppiness. To be fair, it’s understandable considering the majority of these guys were rinsing drinks on a beach somewhere for four or five days. From the Toronto perspective, they’ve been off for nine days —I expect some hesitancy and sluggishness. That said it’s important for them to keep shifts short early on and shake off the rust as quickly as they can. Suffice it is to say, I’m expecting an ugly one tonight at Nationwide Arena.
Dating back to the 2019-2020 season, the Leafs and Jackets have played to the over in four straight outings. Additionally, Toronto has taken four of the past six regular season meetings with Columbus. Honestly, I’m still trying to get over that playoff. Like..what the puck. Furthermore, I’m expecting another one of those track meets tonight, especially when you factor in how long it’s been since either team has played a game. Bottom line: Toronto better be ready to play. Don’t let Columbus’ position in the standings deceive you either, there’s some really good hockey players on that roster —even without Zach Werenski.
DON’T GIVE THEM HOPE
Unequivocally, Columbus is a front runner to land Connor Bedard in June. Considering their expectations going into the season, it’s been a rough 2022-23 for Brad Larsen and company. Make no mistake about it, they’re a fragile team. Obviously. Furthermore, both teams are coming off a long break, so the team that shakes off the rust first will be in prime position to win this one. I hate to say this is a trap game, but it’s a trap game for the Leafs. They’re clearly the better team. But, as we’ve seen time and time again, that doesn’t necessarily translate well when they play a lesser opponent. We’ll see how it goes.
Courtesy our friends at PointsBet Canada, here’s tonight’s lines & odds:
(As of Noon EDT)
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