The Toronto Maple Leafs continue their season long six game home stand tonight as the Columbus Blue Jackets are the latest to visit the city. This is the second game of a three game season series, with Columbus taking the first matchup 4-2 in Columbus. This time however, the Columbus Blue Jackets will be the team on the second night of back to back games, as Toronto was in the same situation last time they met in December.
Toronto are on a two-game winning streak, but have yet to close out opponents in regulation, with both wins coming via the shootout. With that being said, I don’t think this is good news heading into tonight’s matchup against a much more comparable opponent than in the last two wins. Toronto has played well in selective periods but have yet to put in a consistent sixty minutes arguably before their road trip before the end of 2017.
For Columbus, they are on a similar trend as the Maple Leafs. They have been wildly inconsistent over the last 13 games with a record of 5-6-2 including a couple of blowout losses. Looking into the inconsistencies they have started the games out strong but lost momentum heading into the later periods of the game, setting up for either a roller coaster win or a heartbreaking loss. One aspect of their game that is trending upwards is the Blue Jackets have been better on the power play. After being the worst power play in the league for majority of the first half of the season, Columbus has scored at least once on the power play in six of their last ten games. Toronto will need to stay out of the box tonight if they want a shot at beating this tough Columbus squad.
Player to Watch on Columbus:
Last game I had Zach Werenski in this spot for the Blue Jackets, but he was a late scratch and missed it. So, for tonight’s game Zach Werenski will be the player to watch. Last year Werenski was one of the rookies that led the youth movement last season eventually finishing third in the Calder Trophy standings only behind Matthews and Laine. In his sophomore season, Werenski has dealt with injuries which has dialed back his overall points, but he leads the NHL in goals among defenceman, and his overall offensive skill makes him a threat every time he is on the ice. It also isn’t a coincidence that Columbus’ power play has been excelling recently since Werenski has come back to the lineup on a full-time basis.
These two teams are separated by just one point and both sit third in the respective divisions. With both teams being comparable to one another I expect this game to be a fun watch. Elite talent will be displayed on both teams that will generate scoring opportunities, but if you can appreciate a fine goaltending performance then this game is perfect for you, with Sergei Bobrovsky and Frederik Andersen being arguably the two best goalies in the past season and a half.