Leafs do not engage enough in the tough areas.
Once the playoffs roll around, everyone on the team has to become a willing forechecker, shot-blocker and net-front presence. You cannot win on skill alone, especially as you play the same team repeatedly.
Were the Maple Leafs more talented than the Blue Jackets? Yes, by a wide margin.
However, the Leafs did not play the kind of hockey that the playoffs demand. This is why they keep getting bounced in the first round by tougher teams like Boston and Columbus (or whatever round you want to call the qualifiers).
I’m not a huge PJ Stock fan, but this assessment is bang on. As other teams clog shooting lanes and check tightly, the high-end talent is neutralized, and goals have to come from out in front of the net, on tips and from the point.
The Maple Leafs do none of this well. According to Icy Data, Marcus Foligno was second among all players in hits during the qualifiers with 22. Other Blue Jackets teammates like Riley Nash (15), Boone Jenner (14), Pierre-Luc Dubois (12) and Seth Jones (11) come before the first Maple Leaf, Zach Hyman, who recorded 10 hits.
Columbus also had the two best shot blockers of anyone in the play-in round, with David Savard recording a whopping 21 and Seth Jones adding 16. Rielly led the way for Toronto with 11 blocked shots.