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GAME 2 PREVIEW: Blue Jackets look to extend series lead over Leafs

Columbus' playoff experience could be key as team holds a 1-0 lead going into Tuesday's matinee

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com
(9) BLUE JACKETS at (8) MAPLE LEAFS 

Game 2; Columbus leads best-of-five series 1-0 

Tuesday, 4 p.m. ET, Scotiabank Arena, Toronto (FOX Sports Ohio, NBCSN, CBJ appFOX Sports app97.1 The Fan

If you're a Blue Jackets fan, you're probably excited by how the team played Sunday night in earning a 2-0 win over Toronto to take the upper hand in their Stanley Cup Playoffs qualifying series. 

Here's another exciting tidbit -- in NHL history, teams that win Game 1 in a best-of-five series own an all-time series record of 68-15 (.819 winning percentage). 

The vibes are certainly good now as Columbus has the advantage, but there's no time for resting on laurels. 

It's a similar situation to a year ago, and the Blue Jackets' four-game sweep of high-powered Tampa Bay last spring for the first-ever playoff series victory in franchise history showed just how much the team has learned about how playoff hockey works. 

As the franchise's playoff success experience has grown over the last few years -- from a loss to Pittsburgh in 2017 to a blown series lead vs. Washington a year after that to the thrill of last year's Tampa win and the ensuing loss to Boston -- so has the team's understanding of the concentration level needed in postseason hockey. 

While the players on the team have stressed each postseason experience is different year-to-year, they have learned how to handle the ups and downs of what gets thrown at them.  

"I think the experience of winning is important because when you get in those positions, you understand what you did to give yourself success, but it's hard because from year to year, I don't think you take too much," captain Nick Foligno said. "Every year is so different. The only thing I'd say is even going back a little further, I think the disappointment of the Washington series allowed us to have the success in the Tampa series.  

"But now the success we had against Tampa, we realize there's a whole 'nother level you have to get to playing Boston. That's the motivation for me is as great as what we accomplished against Tampa, the job was not done." 

So as you can imagine, no chickens have been counted before they're hatched with the Blue Jackets, as the team continues to expect a tight series against the Maple Leafs.  

Just about all the numbers from Sunday night's Game 1 were pretty even, though Columbus did end up with a 35-28 edge in shots on goal and their smothering finish to the contest allowed the Blue Jackets to post a slight edge in shot quality (expected goals percentage) at 5-on-5.  

As has been written quite extensively, the series provides a fascinating clash of styles, and Columbus continues to expect that to mean it will be a taut battle throughout. 

"I think both teams came ready (in Game 1) and you could tell it was a playoff type game," Columbus center Boone Jenner said. "You could see with the score, we were able to get one past them, but I think both teams checked well and it was even that way." 

Know the Foe  

During the regular season, Maple Leafs standouts Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitchell Marner and William Nylander played in a combined 260 games and had a combined 266 points. 

Considering that's an average of four points per game if all four guys are in the lineup, it seems fair to say at some point Toronto is going to find some offense.  

Of course, Columbus' entire style is to try to short-circuit that offense and make the Maple Leafs earn every inch of ice they get, let alone every shot on goal, and the Blue Jackets did just that in Game 1. Toronto had very few chances in transition and off turnovers, though a few opportunities did come off the stick of Matthews and ended either a struck post or a spectacular Joonas Korpisalo save away from being in the back of the net.  

Head coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters after Game 1 that in a contest that was balanced on a knife's edge, in some ways, the crucial play simply just went Columbus' way.  

"I thought we did have some chances to get obviously more than what we got on the scoreboard," Keefe said. "But it didn't fall in for us. It fell in for them. That's the difference." 

One thing that is true is that Columbus shouldn't expect perfection the rest of the way, even if Korpisalo delivered it in the opener with 28 saves on 28 shots against. At some point, the Maple Leafs will likely get something going, as you'd expect from a team that placed third in the NHL in scoring with 3.39 goals per game and sixth in power play at 23.1 percent.  

What will be interesting to watch is to see if Keefe changes the Toronto lines in an effort to try to create more offense and break down the Blue Jackets' smothering defense. Matthews and Nylander played together with Zach Hyman in Game 1, while Marner was grouped with Tavares and Ilya Mikheyev. Will Matthews and Marner be paired at some point in Game 2? Will Keefe throw out the All-Star trio of Matthews, Marner and Tavares more often, as he did late in Game 1? We shall see.  

3 Keys to the Game  

Get the first line on the board: The trio of Alexandre Texier, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Oliver Bjorkstrand had a number of excellent scoring chances only to be stymied by Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen in Game 1. Converting on those chances could mean breathing room in Game 2.  

Stay out of the box: Columbus did just that with only a single penalty taken in the opening contest. Penalties can lead to goals and momentum for the Maple Leafs, and that can be crucial in a short series. 

Stay the course: The Game 1 win was exciting, but a whole series it does not make. Columbus has to keep its head down, and the Jackets know they can't get too far ahead of themselves yet.  

Of Note    

Korpisalo became the 14th goaltender in NHL history Sunday to record a shutout in his playoff debut and the first to do so since John Gibson with Anaheim in 2014. … Cam Atkinson has 20 career playoff points (8-12-20 in 28 games), the most in CBJ postseason history, and his eight goals also top the CBJ postseason record book. … Seth Jones is the Blue Jackets' all-time leader in postseason assists with 12. …  Four Blue Jackets made their NHL postseason debut in Game 1 (Emil Bemstrom, Liam Foudy, Korpisalo and Eric Robinson). … Game 1 was the first-ever postseason meeting between the teams. … Both teams' NHL restart rosters have an average age of 26.1 years old, third youngest in the league, and both teams had 81 points in 70 regular season games.  

Projected Lineup 

(Subject to change) 

Nick Foligno - Alexander Wennberg - Cam Atkinson 

Alexandre Texier - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Oliver Bjorkstrand 

Gus Nyquist - Boone Jenner - Liam Foudy 

Eric Robinson - Riley Nash - Emil Bemstrom 

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones 

Vladislav Gavrikov - David Savard  

Ryan Murray - Dean Kukan 

Joonas Korpisalo 

Elvis Merzlikins  

Scratches: F Josh Anderson (injury), Nathan Gerbe, Stefan Matteau, Devin Shore, Kevin Stenlund; D Gabriel Carlsson, Adam Clendening, Scott Harrington, Markus Nutivaara, Andrew Peeke; G Matiss Kivlenieks 

Roster Report: The Blue Jackets are not expected to make any changes to the lineup from Game 1's victory. 

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