Toronto Maple Leafs: Blue Jackets present strong playoff test

Josh Anderson of the Columbus Blue Jackets battles against Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Josh Anderson of the Columbus Blue Jackets battles against Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs will take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in a play-in series to get into the NHL playoffs.

As the NHL confirmed its 24-team format for the 2019-20 playoffs, the Toronto Maple Leafs now that they will play the Columbus Blue Jackets.

There is still a lot that needs to be decided including an official start date and where teams will congregate but the NHL has taken a significant step in outlining a plan to return to action. Not only that but we can actually start to discuss some actual hockey news considering the past few months have been filled with speculation.

In this new format that includes an additional four teams per conference, the NHL is doing its best to ensure that the teams who were on the playoff bubble get their chance to compete in the playoffs. The Blue Jackets certainly won’t complain as the second wild card team considering they would have had to play the Boston Bruins if the league went with the traditional playoff format.

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Not only that but the Leafs avoid the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round which would have been an exciting matchup but not an easy opening series either for Toronto. If you’re a Leafs fan, you take this series instead for a couple of reasons.

We’ll have a more detailed breakdown of how the Leafs and Blue Jackets matchup at each position but one thing we know for sure, Columbus will do its best to push Toronto to the limit. You also can’t look past John Tortorella’s experience considering the Blue Jackets pulled off one of the more surprising upsets in recent memory against the Tampa Bay Lightning last year.

At the same time, the Leafs are not facing the same squad that lost Artemi Panarin. Matt Duchene, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Ryan Dzingel. What the Blue Jackets have been able to rely on as a formula for success has been their tough defensive style considering they have only allowed only 187 goals against which is the third-fewest in the NHL.

While the Blue Jackets’ defensive game will give the Leafs a tough time, there are certainly more uncertainties when you consider the injuries Columbus has had to deal with this season. On top of that, it’s tough to say who Tortorella would turn to as his starting goaltender between Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins.

One other aspect that is tough to account for is the lack of home-ice advantage which could play a factor in all of this as well.

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What do you think about playing a series against the Blue Jackets? Who do you give the advantage to? Let us know in the comments below.