Just one year removed from finishing as the league's worst team, the Leafs saw a bunch rookies come in and transform them into a playoff contender. It was romantic and fun as hell.
When they entered into a first-round matchup against the league-best Capitals, not many gave the Leafs a shot. Some thought Washington would roll over the youngsters and send them packing quickly.
That wasn't the case, as ultimately this was the most intense, comptetitive and riveting opening-round matchup that the playoffs had to offer.
It took six ultra-competitive games for the Caps to dispose of Toronto, so let's take a look at what made the difference.
Washington's top six
Toronto's top line -- comprised of rookies Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews and William Nylander -- was great in this series. They needed to be.
Washington's top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and T.J. Oshie was also expectedly good, but the Caps' second line was also a difference-maker.
Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Justin Williams combined for six goals and 14 points. More importantly, they came up in big situations -- two of those goals were of the game-winning variety, including the series-clincher from Johansson in Game 6.
The Capitals' offensive depth wasn't nearly as much of a factor as I anticipated (other than Tom Wilson, of all people, scoring three goals) and the Leafs got contributions throughout their lineup, but Washington's top six was great.
Getting good goaltending is crucial in the playoffs. Frederik Andersen was very good in between the pipes for the Leafs, but Braden Holtby was right there alongside him.
The Capitals' goalie, who was announced as a Vezina finalist over the weekend, has been a rock in the playoffs over the years. That did not change in the first round.
Holtby finished the series with a .925 save-percentage after facing 213 shots, the most of any goalie in the first round. Andersen finished .915 on 211 shots, though the Leafs goalie was a smidge better at even-strength.
As it stands today, Holtby has the highest career playoff save-percentage (.936) of any goaltender in the history of the league. The Capitals are going to need him to stay great.
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John Carlson and Nate Schmidt
The Capitals finished the regular season as the league's best defensive team. That defensive unit has a lot of talent and depth and we saw that in round one.
Nate Schmidt started the series as a healthy scratch, but slotted in for an injured Karl Alzner after Game 2 and made the most of his opportunity.
Schmidt was paired with John Carlson in the final four games of the series and they were excellent. They pushed possession towards the offensive end of the ice and saw great success. Schmidt was on the ice for five even-strength goals in the four games he played. Carlson was on the ice for six and also added a power play goal off his stick in Game 2.
Just as importantly, they were responsible in their own zone, only allowing a single goal at even-strength over those final four games.
It'll be interesting to see if Schmidt will stay in the lineup moving forward but, at the very least, he did a great job creating a tough lineup decision for head coach Barry Trotz.
John E. SokolowskiJohn E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
When you win a series in which all six games are decided by a single goal and five needed overtime, you had a little bit of luck on your side.
Both teams battled extremely hard the entire way and both got bounces to go their way. Washington got a few more than Toronto, when it counted. Had that gone the other way, we could be talking about a major upset right now. That's how close it was.
Toronto was probably more of a scare than most Washington fans were prepared for -- and they had luck on their side at several points, too -- but the good news is that the Caps' survived.
Capitals fans will tell you quicker than anyone that luck can be deadly if it isn't on your side -- as it often hasn't been for Washington -- so maybe this is a great sign for them.
Maybe it really is their year.
In a series that was as tight as this one, you need to take take full advantage of the openings and opportunities presented to you.
Washington did a better job of that on special teams in the opening round.
The Capitals' power play converted at 29.4 percent (third-best in the playoffs) while the Leafs operated at a 16.7 percent clip, which put them sixth-worst.
With all the firepower that the Caps have on offense, it's crucial for opposing teams to limit their opportuninities with the man-advantage.
Unfortunately for the Leafs, they gave them a few chances too many and Washington made them pay.