Toronto Maple Leafs Jump Into Third Place After 5-2 Win Against Blue Jackets

Mar 22, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri (43) reacts to scoring a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the third period at Nationwide Arena. The Leafs won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri (43) reacts to scoring a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the third period at Nationwide Arena. The Leafs won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

The Toronto Maple Leafs (34-23-14) continued their hot play and dropped the Columbus Blue Jackets (47-19-6), 5-2, on Tuesday night. The win moves the Leafs into third place in the Atlantic Divison.

Thoughts and Observations

  • After being dismantled by the Blue Jackets last month, you could tell the Toronto Maple Leafs had a little extra motivation for this game and they didn’t just want to beat Columbus, they wanted to also show they’re not a team who will be pushed around. This game started off chippy and the physical play was evident throughout the night.
  • Frederik Andersen was superb for the Leafs, especially in moments where the team was under heavy pressure. He also made timely saves in key moments, including a terrific stop on a wide open Brandon Saad. Andersen would finish the game with 32 saves on 34 shots and was easily one of the Leafs best players.
  • Auston Matthews scored his 33rd goal of the season and now needs one more goal to tie Wendel Clark‘s franchise record for most rookie goals in a single-season. Eric Lindros was a more physically imposing player, but the way Matthews “hawks” for the puck when he’s around the net does remind me of Lindros.
  • The Leafs set the tone early with their physical play, but the Blue Jackets came out of the first intermission with a purpose.

    Boone Jenner

    set the tone for the second period when he crushed

    Roman Polak

    into the boards to open the frame. His hit led to an offensive zone situation and from there they worked their potent high-low game, which gave the Leafs trouble all night. Here’s an example of the Jackets’ high-low game.

    What a shot by

    William Nylander

    . It reminded me of a goal

    Phil Kessel

    would score. Here’s another look:

    Nylander finished the night with a goal and an assist and he extended his point streak to nine games. He now has points in 22 of his last 23 games and he also earned himself a nice bonus for scoring his 20th goal of the season.

    Nazem Kadri

    hit the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career when he scored an insurance goal late in the third period to put the Leafs up 4-2. Given his play this season, it wouldn’t be farfetched to say that Kadri has become the Leafs most consistent veteran player. Babcock believes Kadri still has a long ways to go in his development, too.

    More from Tip of the Tower

  • Brian Boyle made a savvy play when he flipped the puck into the Columbus bench to get a stoppage and put an end to the Leafs prolonged penalty kill. More about that below.
  • Eric Fehr was great on the five minute PK and I would guess that his ability to kill penalties — and take draws — is why Babcock played him instead of Josh Leivo.
  • One final note on the major penalty kill: Matt Hunwick played a whopping four minutes of the 6:54 the Leafs were shorthanded and he deserves a ton of credit for his gutsy effort. The “Hunlak” pairing gets a ton of criticism, most of it warranted, but Hunwick played well on Wednesday and stepped in a major way.
  • The Leafs are now 6-1-1 in their last eight games and they’ve collected five points against the Blackhawks, Bruins and Blue Jackets. Now, does that not sound like something a playoff team would do?

    Stat of the Night


    Roman Polak destroyed Oliver Bjorkstrand early in the third period and was given a five minute major for the hit. The Leafs killed off the penalty and held the Blue Jackets to only one shot, which came nearly four minutes into the PP.

    However, the Blue Jackets had an extended power play because Babcock did not put anyone into the penalty box for Polak, therefore the Leafs had to play shorthanded for an extra 1:54. Babcock took responsibility for the error and let his guys know about it on the bench.

    Regardless of Babcock’s blunder, the Leafs PK was phenomenal and Hunwick deserves a ton of credit for his effort.

    What’s Next

    The Maple Leafs will head back home to complete the second leg of their back-to-back when they host the New Jersey Devils (27-33-12) on Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre. Andersen is expected to get the night off and backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney will start against the Devils.

    New Jersey has lost 12 of their last 14 games and seven consecutive road contests. In other words, this a game where the Leafs need to take care of business and get in the win column.

    Next: Will Leivo Get Another Opportunity this Season?

    What did you think of the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below