By Stan Smith

Even without superstar Auston Matthews, the Toronto Maple Leafs began their post-All-Star portion of the season with a 3-0 shutout of the Blue Jackets in Columbus.

The Good

Despite being a road game, this one had a distinct home-ice feel. The rink was filled with Maple Leafs’ fans who made the seven-hour road trip to Columbus. With the Blue Jackets occupying last place in the Eastern Conference, there were probably lots of tickets available and for a much lower price than games in the Scotiabank Arena would sell for.  

The Athletic posted an article in March 2022 showing what is termed the Fan Cost Index (FCI), compiled by a company called “Team Marketing Report.”  This published annual report shows the average cost of “four non-premium tickets, two beers, two sodas, four hot dogs, two souvenir hats (as a proxy for merch buying) and parking.”

According to their survey last season the FCI for the Maple Leafs was a league-high $697.75 USD. The FCI for the Blue Jackets was almost exactly half of that, at $348.86 USD. 

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Trade Targets, Woll & Shanahan

John Tavares

John Tavares scored the first and third goals of the game, to bring his goal total up to 23 in 53 games. He is on pace to score 35 goals this season. That would be his highest goal total in four seasons, and his second-highest goal total since he joined the Maple Leafs in 2018. Tavares has scored 21 points in his last 17 games. He’s also at a point-a-game pace, with 53 points in 53 games. 

John Tavares, Maple Leafs

In just over four and half seasons with the Maple Leafs, Tavares has already climbed to 33rd in all-time goals for the franchise with 142. His 327 points tied him for 36th place with former Maple Leafs’ defenseman Jim McKenny. 

Mitch Marner

Mitch Marner’s season seems to be all about streaks and records. After setting an NHL record for assists at the All-Star game with six helpers in the three-on-three competition, Marner was all over the ice in this game. He made two no-look passes to Tavares on both of his goals.  

They announced on the broadcast that Marner now has 87 multi-assist games in the 480 games he has played in his career. This two-assist game moved him past Dave Keon into fourth place for multi-assist games on the team in franchise history. Marner still has a ways to go to catch Borje Salming, who had 142 multi-assist games in his 1,148-game career. 

William Nylander

Despite not having a point in this game, William Nylander might have been the most dominant player on the ice. He seemed to be in alone on Blue Jackets’ goalie Joonas Koprisalo every other shift.

According to Nylander had more High Danger Scoring Chances (9) in this game than the entire Columbus team (8). 

Ilya Samsonov

Ilya Samsonov recorded his third shutout of the 2022-23 season. 

The one thing that head coach Sheldon Keefe stressed before this game was that the Maple Leafs had to renew their commitment to playing solid defence. That’s been the type of game they had played for the majority of the season; however, it had gotten away from in the games leading up to the All-Star break. But, the team accomplished that solid defence in this game. They limited the High-Danger Chances for the Blue Jackets to only eight in all situations. 

Ilya Samsonov, Maple Leafs

As a result, for most of this game, Samsonov just had to stop the types of shots he should. He did come up big in the third period with three saves of the sensational variety to preserve the shutout. Those saves stifled any momentum the Blue Jackets might have gained if they had scored. 

On that note, a graphic was displayed during the first period of the broadcast that showed Samsonov has the highest inner-slot save percentage in the NHL this season, at 0.859%.

Related: Three Takeaways from Maple Leafs’ 3-0 Win vs Blue Jackets

The Bad

Thirty-two minutes into this game the Maple Leafs had control of the game and had outshot Columbus 26-12. Then, at the 12:08 mark of the second period, Timothy Liljegren took a four-minute high-sticking penalty on Blue Jackets’ forward Liam Foudy. 

The Maple Leafs killed the four minutes but the power play gave Columbus momentum and turned the game in their favour. In the remaining eight minutes of the second period, the Maple Leafs were outshot 9-2. The Blue Jackets carried that momentum, and the play, through to 7:49 of the third period when Pierre Engvall scored to put the Maple Leafs up 2-0. 

The Ugly

The only ugly thing that jumped out at me in this game wasn’t even about this game. They stated during the broadcast that, as well as Samsonov has been playing for the Maple Leafs, he had not won a road game since December 27, 2022, a period of a month and a half. 

That stat is a little deceiving, however. Looking back over his record in that stretch, he only had three road starts in the 45 days. Since Samsonov’s last win, in St. Louis on December 27, Samsonov gave up three goals in a 4-1 loss in Detroit. He gave up three goals in an overtime loss in Montreal, and he gave up five goals in his most recent loss in Boston just before the All-Star break. Meanwhile, Samsonov had appeared in eight home games and won six of them.

The 45 days without a road win for Samsonov was more a quirk in the schedule and his deployment than an ugly stretch for Samsonov. 

What’s Next?

After having nine days off, both the Maple Leafs and the Blue Jackets jump right back into it again tonight. Both teams return to Toronto for the second game of home-and-home, back-to-backs.

Keefe did state before the first game that he intended to give Joseph Woll the start in the second of the two games. However, he also stated that the final decision would not be made until the morning of the second game. 

Woll is 13-1-0, with a 0.930 save percentage, and a 2.36 goals-against-average, in 14 games with the Marlies this season. Last season in four appearances for the Maple Leafs, Woll had a 3-1-0 record with a 0.911 Save Percentage and 2.76 goals-against-average. 

Hopefully, the Maple Leafs can build off of the momentum from the first game and help Woll get the win in his first start for them this season.  


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