Published: Wed, August 12, 2020
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Columbus Blue Jackets Still Have Reasons To Hold Heads High

Columbus Blue Jackets Still Have Reasons To Hold Heads High

There is mainly good damage news for the Maple Leafs and particularly Blue Jackets heading into Sunday's decisive Activity 5 (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN livestream).

Of course, it was going to be like this. The Blue Jackets then won in overtime in Game 3 before the Maple Leafs tied the series at 2-2 with an overtime win in Game 4 Friday in Toronto. They each shut one another out and staged remarkable comebacks from three goals behind.

That will undoubtedly be on the minds of a lot of tuning in for Sunday night's all-or-almost nothing Activity 5 versus the Columbus Blue Jackets. I still like them to win this game. It's no surprise they dragged this out. Tampa Bay had a shot at it but they fell to the Flyers on Sunday by a score of 4-1 and that relegated them to the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Toronto has scored 237 goals and ranks third in the Eastern Conference averaging 3.4 goals per game. Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo made 33 saves to earn a clean sheet in the qualifier. But then they recovered to setup a winner-take-all game for the right to advance. They had the lead entering the third period of Game 7 in 2018 in Boston. But right from the get-go as we started preparing for this game, we knew how we were playing, we just wanted to get back to our game as quickly as possible when we started Game 5. And yet that's exactly the predicament the Blue Jackets forward finds himself in, on the verge of eliminating the star-studded Maple Leafs, on the verge of his own ascension to stardom as well.

The Leafs underachieved. General manager Kyle Dubas hasn't been spending big wads of MLSE cash so the Leafs can bow out in the first round of the playoffs, or, in this case, in the qualifying round against Columbus. A year ago, the Blue Jackets swept the Lightning, which had been the NHL's best team in the regular season, in four straight games. Tavares didn't get everything on the Leafs best chance of the night and was also denied close in on Toronto's only power play, an area they looked to dominate in what lived up to its billing as a fairly tight series.

"It's hard to put it all into words", Morgan Rielly, the Maple Leafs defenceman, said afterward about the disappointment. Definitely a bad feeling, a bad taste. "I don't have the vocabulary for it".

The Maple Leafs ran out of offense with captain John Tavares misfiring by hitting the post while facing a wide-open side in the first period. They were on the verge of being knocked out of the on Friday when William Nylander, Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman each scored in the last 3 minutes and 57 seconds to force it to extra time.

The players often talked up the fact they had been together, for the most part, since the beginning of Phase 2 of the National Hockey League's Return to Play plan, and that could only be an advantage for them. They had escaped. They couldn't do it twice.

"It's very disappointing", Matthews said. The left wing suffered a knee injury after colliding with teammate Kasperi Kapanen and underwent surgery in the third week of February. Johnsson took the place of rookie Nick Robertson.

The goaltending has been solid for the Bolts this year and they allowed just eight total goals in their first three games back. Dubois has four goals and four assists over the last 10 games for Columbus.

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