We ask three questions where the answers will determine if the Toronto Maple Leafs bounce back to win Game 2 and level their play-in series versus the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Toronto Maple Leafs played their first significant game in more than four months on Sunday. Unfortunately for the fans it didn’t turn out quite as planned, as the team lost 2-0 to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Right away, thoughts turned to the Leafs’ first round exits in the last three seasons, although technically this isn’t a playoff series. In fairness, they didn’t play terrible, but it was an uninspired performance regardless.
Now, the Leafs need to find a way to improve and get back into this play-in series. Here are three questions where the answers will determine if they win Game 2 on Tuesday:
1) Will Frederik Andersen continue his outstanding form from Game 1?
Frederik Andersen had an excellent performance in Game 1, one which was good enough to earn the third star. However, essentially the only mistake he made all night cost the Leafs.
There is little doubt Andersen should have been able to stop Cam Atkinson’s harmless-looking shot. However, to blame the goaltender for the loss would make no sense, as he registered 34 saves on the night.
In fact, if you’d said prior to the game that Andersen would only allow one goal, you would have been extremely confident of a Leafs win. After all, they scored the third-most goals in the NHL during the regular season, including seven in two meetings with the Blue Jackets.
What’s important now, is to find out if Andersen can continue to perform at a similar level in Game 2. If he does, there is a golden opportunity available for the Leafs to tie the five-game play-in series at 1-1.
There were some concerns about Andersen heading into the play-in series, based on the least productive season of his NHL career in terms of save percentage and goals allowed average. However, these concerns extended to his performances in previous playoff appearances, specifically since coming to Toronto.
In 20 previous playoff starts for the Leafs, Andersen has had some outstanding performances. However, he’s lacked consistency which is why — fair or not — he is a major reason why the team has yet to advance past the opening round of the playoffs during his tenure.
If Andersen finds the consistency to repeat his Game 1 performance throughout the remainder of this play-in series, the Leafs should arguably advance. If, however, he reverts to being inconsistent, the team probably won’t even get the opportunity to compete in another first round playoff series never mind lose it.