3) Does Sheldon Keefe have the ability to counter John Tortorella’s game plan?
In the lead-up to the series with Columbus, we cited the influence of John Tortorella as a key storyline. He has had a tremendous head coaching career, advancing to the playoffs in 12 of the last 15 seasons.
This includes helping the Blue Jackets qualify in each of the last three seasons. Most impressively of all, last season they became the first team in NHL history to sweep a Presidents’ Trophy winner in the opening round. (The Tampa Bay Lightning.)
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That alone should have served as a warning to Keefe and the Leafs; Totorella can flat-out coach. Despite recently calling out some of his key players in public, you knew he would have the Blue Jackets ready to play.
And so it came to pass, as Tortorella developed the perfect game plan on Sunday night. They used their forte as a superior defensive team, to nullify the Leafs’ potent offence.
The Blue Jackets were poised, disciplined and patient, just waiting for their opponent to make a mistake. This approach was highlighted by only committing one minor penalty all night, an outstanding statistic given the circumstances.
Now, Leafs fans will be wondering how Keefe adapts his own game plan, in order to get back into the series. As much as he quite rightly concentrate on the blueline during training camp, he now needs to focus on re-energising the attack.
Certainly, the Leafs will want — and need — to be more aggressive on offence. After managing 11 shots in the opening period they only had 17 the rest of the day, including just one long-range effort in the final seven minutes.
However, Toronto will also need to force Columbus into more errors. If they can find a way to spend more time on the power play — they ranked sixth in the NHL during the regular season — this should lead to more scoring opportunities.
Do you have any more pertinent questions for Game 2? Regardless, what is your prediction for the outcome of Game 2 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.