The Toronto Maple Leafs face a must-win scenario against the Columbus Blue Jackets and will need John Tavares and Mitch Marner to step up.
Following their Game 1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Toronto Maple Leafs found themselves in a familiar position as they go into Game 2 needing to pull out a win.
Unlike a seven-game series where losing the first two games can be overcome, this five-game format leaves little margin for error. You can bet there will be some nerves both in the arena and for those watching at home.
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Looking back at Game 1, the Leafs weren’t severely outplayed by the Blue Jackets but there were players who didn’t perform to their capabilities. It’s no secret that Mitch Marner and John Tavares have received their fair share of criticism, but when you watch and compare the stats after the game, the critique was warranted.
Marner and Tavares were on the ice for both goals against and combined for two shots on goal. They also have the benefit of not going up against Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, but apparently David Savard and Vladislav Gavrikov are enough to shut down a duo making a combined $21.893 million.
"“They’ve got a tough matchup there, too, right? (Vladislav) Gavrikov and (David) Savard are tough defenders just the same,” said Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe, to reporters. “It’s a tough matchup for them. We need to get a little bit more from them, but we need more from everybody.”"
The Blue Jackets are a good defensive team and it’s only one game, but this criticism stems from some concerning moments during the regular season as well. While there has been a fair amount of hatred thrown towards Marner, we have to stop creating a singular player as the reason for the entire team’s failure.
This is why it’s up to the collective group like the newly formed Marner-Tavares and Ilya Mikheyev line, which was hyped a lot in training camp and has to pick things up. If not, Keefe has shown he is willing to make changes and it’s clear that all hands have to be on deck if they want to have a chance.
On a more promising note, the duo has recognized that they have to improve and provide more of an impact, which is part of the battle. One factor they need to keep in mind is that Savard and Gavrikov like to block shots, so remaining stationery will play to their strengths.
Marner and Tavares were paid to be big contributors and with the spotlight on them, it will be interesting to see how they perform.
Do you think there should be more pressure on Marner and Tavares to produce? What would you like to see from the Leafs? Let us know in the comments below.