2. Defense and Goaltending
The Toronto Maple Leafs are not exactly known for their defense OR goaltending, with Kyle Dubas attempting to acquire Marc-Andre Fleury at the deadline.
However, the Leafs did an amazing job stifling the Lightning by getting in the passing lanes and blocking shots. Something that was major was how they kept the Lightning to the outside, not allowing cross-ice passes. The cycle had nothing as the only available shots came from the point, which was heavily covered.
Even when the SOG did come, the defensemen did a great job in making sure there were minimal second-chance opportunities. One example would be when Mark Giordano followed the man rather than the puck. He showed his experience where the goaltender stopped the puck, but his man was still driving the net. Giordano followed through on his check, eliminating any chance the Lightning had. (stats naturalstattrick.com).
Goaltending was astounding as Jack Campbell managed to beat Vasilevskiy in the goaltending battle. While Vasilevskiy did not necessarily have the most help from his team, Campbell made the stops his team needed to drain the Lightning’s confidence and any kind of momentum they attempted to earn.
The Leafs are starting to be a complete team that plays a system that could be successful in the playoffs. As the team continues to find what makes them successful and that winning isn’t always fun, this team could finally be that Eastern Conference Stanley Cup contender we have been looking for.