Monday, October 19, 2015

Toronto Maple Leafs 6 at Columbus Blue Jackets 3 - October 16, 2015

My Toronto on the Road project continues this winter as I will see the Leafs in six road rinks. The Buds promise to be pretty bad this season so I am not hopeful of a perfect record, but would be happy with .500 in those games and I got off to a good start by seeing them in their only visit to Columbus last weekend. The Blue Jackets are the worst team in the league, having lost their first 4 in regulation, mostly because of poor play from 2013-14 Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky.

I've reviewed Nationwide Arena before on the blog, and it is still one of the best in the league. There is one big issue though, the banners are in alphabetical order by division, but the Arizona Coyotes have yet to be moved out of their Phoenix position. Somebody needs to get on that!

Another attraction here is a dentist named Gum. Appropriate that her office is located in a hockey arena, since most players are gumming it by the time they retire.

The cannon is still there in all its glory, but it looks like it will not be used that often this season.

Before the game, I went down to ice level to send good luck vibes to Leo Komarov and the rest of the Leafs. They were winless themselves, having secured a meager point against Ottawa the previous Saturday.

James Reimer was tending net for the Leafs and gave up the only goal in the first when Boone Jenner deflected a shot from the point.  The Leafs had their chances though, outshooting the Jackets 11-6, and I felt confident going into the intermission.

Right off the bat, my confidence was rewarded when Jake Gardiner blasted a perfect slap shot from the slot, picking the top right corner above Bobrovsky's glove. The Leafs took the lead when James Van Riemsdyk beat a screened Bobrovsky with a wrist shot just inside the blue line, a puck that probably should have been stopped. Just over a minute later, Nazem Kadri tapped home a rebound after the Leafs won yet another battle on the end boards and it was 3-1 good guys.

Of course, it was not to last as Columbus got one back with two minutes to go when the puck took a strange bounce off the boards behind Reimer, leaving him looking right as the puck went left to an unmarked Nick Foligno, who tucked it in the open net. Then Komarov took a penalty near the end of the period and Scott Hartnell scored a minute into the third with a shot nearly identical to Gardner's goal a period before.

Another collapse seemed imminent but Bobrovsky was terrible after that. First Joffrey Lupul was at the side of the net and beat Bobrovsky through the legs to make it 4-3 at the four-minute mark. Just after Toronto killed a stupid boarding penalty, Komarov came off the bench and raced for a loose puck. He beat Jenner, who crashed into the boards, and broke in alone, letting go an easy shot that trickled through a surprised Bobrovsky, making it 5-3 with just over four minutes left. Komarov added an empty netter with a minute to go to seal the deal as the Leafs finally got a win for new coach Mike Babcock.


The Blue Jackets went to Chicago the next day and lost, then returned home to play the Islanders on Tuesday and lost that as well. Coach Todd Richards was fired the next day and replaced by John Tortorella. I am sure the Blue Jackets players wish they had tried a lot harder now, Torts is a tough coach.

The Blue Jays played in Game 1 of the ALCS the same night, and we watched the last half at Brothers, one of my favourite chain bars for their Gator Balls appetizer. Which of course, was sold out that night. And the Blue Jays lost. It was a bit of a downer to an otherwise great evening. Fortunately, Brothers turns from a sports bar into a nightclub, so Sharpy and I, sitting at the bar, were constantly surrounded by 21-year-old students who found us old guys in Leaf jerseys pretty unusual. It was quite fun having drinks bought for you by people half your age and we stayed until last call. The only odd thing was that once the bar is closed, they do not let you use the facilities on your way out. I asked a cop outside where the nearest restroom was, and he suggested that I just find a place where nobody can see you. In NYC, that could land you in jail for the night, in Columbus, it's dispensed as advice from law enforcement officers!



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