Toronto Maple Leafs: 3 questions for crucial Game 4 vs. Columbus

Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)
Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Maple Leafs
John Tavares of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

3) Is John Tavares finally ready to prove himself on the big stage?

John Tavares has achieved a lot during his 11-year NHL career. He has a resume which includes being picked first overall in the draft, six All-Star selections and being named a Hart Trophy finalist.

However, for all of Tavares’ impressive achievements, they have come during the regular season. The postseason is another matter altogether.

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As much as hockey is a team game, Tavares has received a lot of criticism about his performances once the intensity is increased. While 27 points (13 goals and 14 assists) in 31 playoff games sounds decent enough, it is decidedly average for a player of such talent.

Tavares certainly has the ability to succeed at the playoff level, with the best proof coming during the 2015-16 season with the New York Islander. However, even as he inspired the team to reach the second round, you were left with the distinct feeling he still had more to offer.

Certainly, this is the sentiment when considering Tavares’ performances so far against the Blue Jacket. One solitary point in three games is simply unacceptable for a player of his stature.

The pressure is now on Tavares to raise his game, because if the Leafs get eliminated, he is going to receive a significant portion of the blame. While this may not sound reasonable, it’s to be expected when you’re the captain and earning an average of $11 million per season.

At this stage of his career, Tavares has to seriously consider what kind of legacy he wants to leave behind when he retires. This means proving himself in the playoffs and inspiring the Leafs to greater things, or one of the narratives will be that he can’t deliver under pressure.

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What is your prediction for Game 4 on Friday night? Will the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Columbus Blue Jackets to force a Game 5, or lose and get eliminated? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.