Michael Sawchuk Hutchinson gets the shutout. I always knew he'd be a great NHL goalie. Just like I always knew they could defend ...
I had called this game a relevant test for the new Leafs, under Keefe. The Isles had embarrassed the Babcock Leafs a year ago, which marked a turning point of sorts. They did not have a great second half after that, as more teams learned the formula - take away the stretch pass, pressure the D, and wait for them to get impatient, and make mistakes.
When facing a team like that, you basically have to mirror them. It turns into a game of patience, and usually a little luck. The Isles offer you all the shots from the outside that you want to take. You spend your energies doing so, but get very little to show for it, because they're so tight in the middle. They're waiting for you to press, over-commit, and allow them scoring chances. Rielly did this blatantly in the second, and Hutch came through with a big glove save that earned him a standing O. One play like that can turn a game like this - if it had scored, the Leafs likely would have started to press, which would have played right into the Isles' game.
The Leafs let the Isles have the low percentage shots, and they put over 30 on the net. But the Leafs did not do the same. They hung back, and waited for their chance. When it came, and the Isles were caught pressing a little, Kappy and Engvall took off, and with some nifty moves and a good shot, opened the scoring. It was an Isles mistake, and some good play, that caused the sequence. Shortly afterwards, a little loose coverage allowed AM34 to tip one in. After that, they managed to cruise to the final.
Keefe got this lineup to play like the Islanders for one game. Think about how monumental an achievement that is. Getting them to play run and gun is one thing. It's in their blood. And it lacks the discipline you need to win in playoffs. Today was a game that showed a tactic that can win in playoffs. It's no guarantee. The big chance in the second, and two posts, mean it could have gone the other way. But that happens against good teams - you need some luck. But I'm flabbergasted that they managed to show this kind of tactical flexibility. I've spent the past several years bemoaning how they had none, and yet here it is. Hats off to Mr. Keefe.