The Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in the play-in round starting this weekend, so how do they compare to the Columbus Blue Jackets?
When the play-in series kicks off this weekend, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be facing a team that are almost the polar opposites of themselves and arguably the most difficult team for them to go up against.
The Leafs pride themselves on having a dominating offence, headlined by superstars like Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, whereas their qualifying round opponents are one of the strongest defensive teams in the NHL.
The two sides enter the play-in round with the same points percentage (.579%) from their respective regular-season records, with the Leafs having three more wins and the Blue Jackets leading the league with 15 OT/SO points.
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When comparing the two teams, the majority of offensive categories favour the Leafs while the defensive categories favour the Blue Jackets, pitting two fairly matched teams against each other.
The Leafs scored the second-most goals (238) in the league prior to pause, with Columbus sat way down near the bottom at joint 28th (180), but Toronto also allowed opposing teams to score the fifth-most (227) while Columbus were extremely stingy and only allowed 187, good for joint third-lowest.
Special teams will be important for both teams, with the Leafs having the joint fifth-best powerplay (23.1%) and Columbus having the 12th-best penalty kill (81.7%).
They two teams are also flipped in those categories, with the Leafs having the 21st ranked penalty kill (77.7%) while Columbus had the fifth-lowest powerplay (16.4%).
In terms of shots each team takes per game, they are fairly similar – something that could have a significant impact on the final series result; the Leafs rank sixth in this category (32.9) while Columbus are just two spots below them with 32.5.
The Leafs do, however, give up two shots more per game (31.9) on average compared to their opponents (29.9), once again showing the strengths of each side are at opposing ends of the ice.
For a team that relies heavily on offence and retaining possession, the Leafs are in a favourable position when lining up for draws against the Blue Jackets, ranked third in face-off success with 52.5% and Columbus ranking as the sixth-worst with 48.5%.
These two teams shape up well against each other, with a strong offence clashing with a strong defence, while their opposing units may have to step up to give either team a better chance at progressing.
Goaltending may also come into play quite heavily in this matchup, with Frederik Andersen needing to get off the mark quickly to ensure the Leafs do not end up having to battle against Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins and a strong defensive unit for five games.
When it is all said and done, this will be an extremely interesting and close series between two teams that are opposites of each other and could equally stake a claim at progressing into the first round of the playoffs proper.