So incredibly close. So vastly different.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets awake Thursday as would-be Round 1 opponents under the NHL’s proposed (but not yet approved) 24-team playoff format, and the matchup pits two clubs operating with opposite styles but similar results.
Toronto (36-25-9) and Columbus (33-22-15) both finished an incomplete 2019-20 regular season with 81 points and a .579 points percentage. They also split their head-to-head games with one win apiece, but both of those tilts were held way back in October — when jogging pants and band T-shirts were a treat, not my work uniform.
They both battled through tumultuous campaigns ravaged by injuries to key players, and both had frights with unstable goaltending that appeared to be sorted out by the pause.
That, however, is where the similarities end and the differences begin in what is arguably the most compelling of the eight proposed play-in brackets.
Why the Maple Leafs would totally win the series
Goals, goals and more goals.
How’s this for a stat? The Maple Leafs have four stars with a minimum of 59 points. The highest-scoring Blue Jacket, Pierre-Luc Dubois, is stuck at 49.