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Game 5 preview: Do or die

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Here’s what you need to know

Toronto Maple Leafs v Columbus Blue Jackets - Game Four Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

Sunday, August 9, 2020 - 8:00 EST
Scotiabank Arena - Toronto, Ontario
TV: Fox Sports Ohio & NBCSN; Radio: 97.1 FM
Opponent’s Blog: Pension Plan Puppets

Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15, 81 points, 6th Metro, 9th East)

vs.

Toronto Maple Leafs (36-25-9, 81 points, 3rd Atlantic, 8th East)

Well, it all comes down to this one game. The winner moves on to face Tampa Bay in the official “first” round of the playoffs. The loser enters tomorrow night’s lottery for the #1 overall pick in the draft.

This series has been fairly even and back-and-forth, so it’s hard to know who has the edge here. Each team had a win in which they dominated for the entire game, then each team blew a 3-0 lead and lost in overtime.

The case for Toronto is they have the momentum from Game 4, they have last change on faceoffs, and they have the bigger stars. Players like Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner are supposed to shine in scenarios like this.

The case for Columbus? Well, Toronto has been forced to play Blue Jackets hockey. These games aren’t shootouts, they’re defensive battles of attrition. Mark Scheig of the Hockey Writers wrote yesterday about the reasons for optimism (someone more optimistic than me? My brand is deteriorating):

As awful as this is for them, there actually is plenty of reason for optimism if you are a Blue Jackets fan. Let’s start by quickly revisiting the Maple Leafs’ onslaught.

All three of their goals were scored at 6-on-5. It’s not a power play but it might as well be. That means the Blue Jackets for almost 57 minutes played the way they wanted to at 5-on-5. They’ve proven throughout the series that as long as they stay out of the box and play their brand of hockey, they can be successful.

And no matter how you want to evaluate the craziness of Game 4, it’s still only one game. The Maple Leafs comeback makes the series 2-2. It didn’t matter if they won 8-0 or 4-3 in overtime, it’s still just one win. Game 5 is a fresh start for the Blue Jackets. If nothing else, the Game 4 result reinforces in the strongest way possible that they have to play their brand of hockey for 60 minutes without letting up.

Player to Watch

Oliver BJORKSTRAND

Where is the Maestro? He was the Jackets’ most dynamic forward in the regular season but has been held scoreless in this series. Is it because of a defensive focus by Toronto, or because he has gotten the raw end of Torts’ line re-shuffling? Or some combination of both? Either way, now is the time for him to show what he can do. He scored two game winning goals in the Tampa series last spring, so he needs to tap into that postseason magic again.

Jackets Notes

Lots of questions remain as of this writing as to the goaltending and defense. Will Torts turn back to the veteran Joonas Korpisalo in net, or is Elvis Merzlikins still the hot hand? After all, Elvis still hasn’t allowed an even strength goal in just over six periods of play.

Zach Werenski left Game 4 in the third period with an upper body injury. He was scheduled to MRI on Saturday but as of this writing there were no results made public. Ryan Murray was a late scratch for Game 4. No word on whether that was a no injury, or a return of his back issue. Obviously, missing two of the top five defensemen would be a huge blow. I’m going to be hopeful and say that Murray is good to go, in which he can take Werenski’s place next to Seth Jones. As for the bottom pair, let’s hope Scott Harrington returns to the press box and Markus Nutivaara returns to the lineup. If Murray can’t go as well, then let’s take another look at promising rookie Andrew Peeke.

Season Series

10/04/2019 TOR 4 @ CBJ 1
10/21/2019 CBJ 4 @ TOR 3 (OT)

08/02/2020 CBJ 2 vs. TOR 0
08/04/2020 CBJ 0 vs. TOR 3
08/06/2020 TOR 3 vs. CBJ 4 (OT)
08/07/2020 TOR 4 vs. CBJ 3 (OT)
08/09/2020 CBJ vs. TOR

Playoff Stats

Toronto Columbus
2.50 (16) GPG 2.25 (17)
2.25 (8) GAPG 2.50 (11)
16.7% (13) PP% 0.00% (24)
100.0% (1) PK% 83.3% (10)
52.3% (8) 5v5 Shot Attempt % 47.7% (16)
51.4% (10) 5v5 Unblocked shot attempt % 48.6% (14)
2.4 (24) 5v5 Shot % 7.1 (13)
.929 (12) 5v5 Save % .976 (2)
Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nylander, 2 G Leader Pierre-Luc Dubois, 3
Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, 4 A Leader Cam Atkinson, David Savard, 3
Auston Matthews, 6 P Leader Cam Atkinson, 5
Kasperi Kapanen, 14 PIM Leader Nick Foligno, 8
1-1-0 "Home/Away" 1-0-1
2-1-1 Last 4 2-1-1

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
Alexandre Texier Pierre-Luc Dubois Cam Atkinson
Gustav Nyquist Boone Jenner Nick Foligno
Liam Foudy Riley Nash Oliver BJORKSTRAND
Eric Robinson Alexander Wennberg Nathan Gerbe
Ryan Murray Seth Jones
Vladislav Gavrikov David Savard
Markus Nutivaara Dean Kukan
Elvis Merzlikins
Joonas Korpisalo
Toronto Maple Leafs
Zach Hyman Auston Matthews Mitch Marner
Nick Robertson John Tavares William Nylander
Ilya Mikheyev Alexaner Kerfoot Kasperi Kapanen
Kyle Clifford Pierre Engvall Jason Spezza
Travis Dermott Justin Holl
Morgan Rielly Cody Ceci
Martin Marincin Tyson Barrie
Frederik Andersen
Jack Campbell