After the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-0 shutout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playing qualifying round, the phrase that must have popped into the heads of the Toronto players, head coach Sheldon Keefe and the members of Leafs Nation was former NFL head coach Dennis Green saying “they are who we thought they were”.
The Blue Jackets were able to establish the defensive and close checking structure that was successful in their sweep over Tampa Bay in 2019, holding the Leafs powerhouse offense at bay until Cam Atkinson scored the game-winner 65 seconds into the third period. Toronto was limited to only 28 shots on goal, one chance on the power play, and only a few excellent scoring chances in the contest, and Columbus held the Leafs without a shot in the final six minutes of regulation before Alexander Wennberg’s empty netter.
13 years ago today, late Cardinals coach Dennis Green gave an all-time press conference.
"I just thought a whole team was in fairly good position most of the night. The game tended to go back and forth a little bit as far as getting hemmed in (our zone)." Columbus head coach John Tortorella said after the game. "There's been a lot of penalties called in these games when (the playoffs) started out yesterday and through today. We've really tried to make a point of emphasis as far as just trying to play the right way. Skating, keeping our sticks down and just checking the right way. It's a dangerous power play we're playing against, we can't give them that many opportunities. It changes the momentum of the game, (and) tonight we I thought we did a pretty good job."
One key for the Blue Jackets was to keep Auston Matthews in check, and Columbus succeeded for the most part by matching the top defensive pair of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski and center Pierre-Luc Dubois against the Leafs leading scorer. Matthews had a great scoring chance on Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo and led the club with six shots on goal in nearly 25 minutes of ice time, but did not get much support from his teammates.
“We didn't generate as much as I wish we could have.” Keefe said. “One falls in for them early in the third period after we had what I thought was a pretty dominant start to the third and thought we were going to be rolling pretty good. All of a sudden, you're down and it changes the nature of the game from there.”
In evaluating what it would take to get past Columbus, the Leafs failed to accomplish four of the five key elements necessary. Frederik Andersen was sharp and not at fault for the loss with a 33-save performance, but Toronto failed to get adequate contributions from the second line of John Tavares and Mitch Marner with Matthews drawing the focus of the Blue Jackets main checkers, the Leafs were unable to fight through the Columbus forecheck, were unable to wear down Jones and Werenski and had just one shot on their only man advantage.
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