Maple Leafs testimonials: Toronto extends a 2-goal lead over the bottom-placed Blue Jackets

The first phase looked promising for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

They led 2-0 against Columbus in the second half of a duel. They also only fired four shots against their rookie goalie Joseph Woll.

And then things fell apart. The Columbus Blue Jackets scored three goals for Toronto in the second half, beating the Leafs 36-18 in the final 40 minutes en route to a 4-3 win.

After the game, Sheldon Keefe said the team was “outworked” and “outplayed” by the Blue Jackets. He also said that the team’s efforts and competitiveness are a problem.

The loss adds to Toronto’s losing record (3-4-3) against bottom teams this season. Despite the win, the Blue Jackets sit last in the NHL.

Let’s get to the player reports – there will be NO three stars.

player reports


Mitch Marner

I was hesitant to give good marks given the loss, but there were a couple of good individual performances in that game and the first was Marner to play almost half the game (28:05). And when the Leafs needed a goal late in the game, Marner was on the ice for almost five minutes (4:47) trying to make it happen.

The best chance of the marathon shift came from a nice play at the blue line by Marner to keep the puck in, followed by a dip in the slot and a nice pass down the middle to Michael Bunting, who nearly leveled the game.

Previously, Marner had the primary assist on two of Toronto’s three goals. On Bunting’s goal in the first half, Marner was first to the puck off the ties and quickly slotted it to Bunting.

Then in the third, he found Rielly on the power play to tie the game 3-3.

William Nylander

I also liked Nylander’s game tonight. After a frustrating night in Columbus on Friday with seven shots and zero goals, he made quick work of that game to get on the board with a nice shot that went over Elvis Merzlikins.

Not long after, he put his hands firmly on display, breaking through several blue jackets for a good scoring opportunity.

Nylander fanned a shot at a breakaway and took a rough penalty in a moment of frustration. Nevertheless, he was successful in the offensive zone with one goal, two points and four shots on target. Like Marner, he was one of the few Leafs players who didn’t always find a goal on the ice.


Michael Bunt

His quick release in the slot of Marner’s pass in the first period puts Bunting on a good note tonight. He struggled along the walls, bringing energy to most layers as usual. The Leafs beat the Blue Jackets 2-0 tonight with Bunting on the ice.

One thought I had in the third period: The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty followed by the missed call after Bunting was hit with the clothesline was wrong. But considering what some umpires are calling things with Bunting, he might just need to catch up on some of the extracurricular activities a little. You don’t want to lose, which makes him fun and impactful in the Leafs lineup, but there’s a line there. And he’s far more valuable to the Leafs on the ice than in the box.


Markus Giordano

Giordano looked calm in this picture. Rarely looking out of place in his D-Zone coverage, he forced the boys out and posted the best underlying numbers – shot percentage, expected goals and game score – among the Leafs’ defenders.

Timothy Liljegren

Liljegren was the only defender who didn’t come on the ice to keep a goal clean in all situations.


Alex Kerfoot

Kerfoot had a crack in his game tonight. He made the breakout pass to Nylander for his opening goal and was noticeable with the puck on his racquet in transition.


Calle Jarnkrok

JΓ€rnkrok had a couple of good chances to score in that game but either missed or was stopped.

Morgan Rielly

Rielly and TJ Brodie spent a lot of time in their own zone tonight. With this duo on the ice, Columbus passed, outbid, and beat the Leafs. However, Rielly gets a better grade than Brodie because I thought he moved the puck well and jumped in at the right time. In the second, he pinched down and made a nice backdoor pass to set up John Tavares. And he scored the winning goal on the power play early in the third period.

Rasmus Sandin

Sandin looked pretty confident early in the game as he went through the legs on a zone exit.

And then, in the second, he was passed around by Boone Jenner on the Blue Jackets’ third goal of the game. Sandin then only played one change in the second third. Call it a mixed bag.

Joseph Woll

Despite giving up four goals, Woll made a .900 save on his season debut. That’s what happens when you’re exposed to 40 shots, I suppose. I’ll give him a passable C. His puck tracking and play in the crease were shaky at times, but he’s not the reason the Leafs lost. The team before him had to make this a quiet night with a 24-year-old AHL goaltender with just four NHL games under his belt. Instead, they gave up the third most shots on goal they were allowed against all season.


The Fourth Series (Pontus Holmberg, Zach Aston-Reese, Alex Steeves)

They did some good things in the first period. Steeves, in particular, had another solid shot at his first NHL goal in the second game. But as the game tightened and the Blue Jackets took control, fourth-row minutes were cut to the point where they got a shift in the third period.

John Tavares

Tavares was better than the score suggests in this game. However, he wasn’t exactly impressive with zero points and zero shots on goal in over 22 minutes of ice time. A shot on goal if you count the one on Woll.

David Camp

Kampf has now gone 17 games without a primary point. He was on the ice for two goals against five against five, despite only playing 8:22 at that strength.


TJ Brodie

Brodie played many tough minutes — 11:08 in all situations and nearly five minutes shorthanded — mainly against the Blue Jackets top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Marchenko and Boone Jenner. He spent many of those minutes in the defensive zone. On-ice shot attempts with Brodie were 40-19 in Columbus’ favour. Toronto was also surpassed 2-0 in these minutes. Not a great night for a normally reliable Brodie. His eight-game streak of not being on the ice for a five-a-side goal is now over.


Justin Holl

Coverage was a real issue across the board tonight. Holl in particular had a hard time with it. At the second Columbus goal in the second half, Holl ran past the loose puck and failed to box Marchenko, who scored at the second chance.

Then, on the fourth Columbus goal, Holl allowed Kent Johnson to easily get inside and get his stick on the puck in what would become the game-winner. Sure, it was rated high stick, but don’t let that distract you from the fact that he won inside position.

Overall, the Leafs were outplayed 3-0 with Holl on the ice tonight.

Pierre Engvall

Engvall’s first period looked promising. He was on pucks and had a great scoring opportunity that punched Merzlikins through the legs but didn’t go in after hitting the post and jumping out. The second third was – similar to the performance of the team – not good. In his second shift, Engvall was muscular in the middle of the ice, failed to clear the puck and the Blue Jackets scored less than five minutes into the second period. He saw no further shift in this period.


Joey Anderson had two shifts in the second half and, like Engvall, was on the bench in the second.


Final grade: C-

The Leafs were overtaken and outplayed by the worst team in the NHL. There were a few individual performances that deserved good marks, but overall, a 4-3 loss to Columbus is hard to digest.

What’s next for the leaves?

They will be back on Sportsnet at 7 p.m. Wednesday night for a match against the No. 31 Chicago Blackhawks.

(Photo above: John E. Sokolowski / USA Today) Maple Leafs testimonials: Toronto extends a 2-goal lead over the bottom-placed Blue Jackets

Russell Falcon

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