The Toronto Maple Leafs weren’t quite as festive (even though they won) as they were at home the other night at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Friday; handing the home side Blue Jackets a 4-2 loss.
They did start shaky Garret Sparks assuming because the Blue Jackets played the night before and to steer him away from the possibility of an emotional game at home Saturday against the New York Islanders.
Sparks is having enough trouble finding his way in the NHL and certainly doesn’t need the Tavares, Lou Lamoriello, ex-Leafs now Islanders bubbling pot adding to his stress.
While he made a few stops against Columbus he did let in a stoppable first period goal by Nick Foligno and was on his knees for some reason before a cross ice pass was one-timed behind him from outside the red circle by Artemi Panarin with less than 2-minutes to play and the game in hand.
Hate to keep harping on this but he didn’t look any better than the other night against Detroit, fighting the puck, behind the play, out of position and uncomfortable in the net. But he won the game and improved to 6-1-1.
John Tavares and Mitch Marner were up to their old tricks again and had the Blue Jackets chasing the game from the opening puck drop. Columbus is a solid team and pressed the Leafs at times but ran out of gas. The Leafs firepower proved too much and they wore the Jackets down.
It was a terrific road game played by Toronto and along with a pair of first period markers from John Tavares, had singles from Mitch Marner (along with 2 assists) and Frederik Gauthier.
The holiday season game also featured one of the best turnouts for Leafs fans seen this year on the road. The loudest was the obvious in Buffalo.
However the Leafs supporters Friday night were not far behind. During the pre-game warm it was blue and white 15 rows deep from the center ice line to behind the Toronto net. The rest of the rink was half dozen rows of Leafs faithful. The players had to have felt the energy from the crowd. It was electric.
Game day the blue and white supporters filled the surrounding establishments and made their presence felt.
With a great road victory in a tough building to win, it was a joyous Leafs crowd leaving the Arena and filling the local bars post game. Before a few hundred left the area however they stood at attention while a trumpeter played ‘Oh Canada’ and joined in singing at the top of their lungs with pride. It was awesome!
Even the Columbus fans stood admiring this really cool moment wondering how crazy will this get if this team continues to win.