Season series: Leafs 1-0-1
Toronto is stacked with top end talent: John Tavares, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner, and William Nylander need to meet high expectations. Zach Hyman also had a 20 goal season despite missing some time. The Leafs are an exciting team because of their offensive firepower. The Blue Jackets leading scorer, Pierre-Luc Dubois, had under 50 points in 70 GP. Columbus apologists may say this is due to John Tortorella’s emphasis on team defense, but the advantage is clear. EDGE: Toronto
I love the Blue Jackets top pairing of Zach Werenski and Seth Jones. They’re great puck movers that still fit well within the Blue Jacket’s structured style. I’m of the opinion that Toronto’s defesemen get some unfair criticism but such is life when you’re a professional hockey player in Toronto. They play a more offensive style, but Morgan Reilly, Jake Muzzin, and Tyson Barrie can all log quality minutes. But in terms of defensive efficiency, I think the choice here is obvious. EDGE: Blue Jackets
I don’t know much about either of Columbus’s goalies, but they combined for 4th best GAA in the league. Frederik Andersen is capable of being a game stealer, but you never know if you’ll get his A-game. I think he brings it, particularly in this series where he won’t face much top end offensive talent. EDGE: Toronto
Although I’m sure the Maple Leafs players don’t share the same sentiment, I wish Mike Babcock was behind the bench for this series. Babcock and John Tortorella could combine for levels of surliness previously unseen. Sheldon Keefe now allows Toronto to exhibit a bit more creativity, but Torts always gets the most out of his roster. EDGE: Blue Jackets
This series will pit the firepower of the Leafs against the defensive focus of the Blue Jackets. They say defense wins championships, but anything can happen over a short series. The Maple Leafs need to lose in the first round, and this is technically only the qualifying round. As long as Matthews keeps his mustache, I like Toronto. Leafs in 4.