LGD – Game 49: Sabres @ Leafs – Peter Holland’s zone exits

Pictured: Zemgus Girgensons

Not a lot to get to today. I have a few statistics to relay to you and a couple of clips of Peter Holland doing hockey things. This is also the last time this season I think I’ll have to watch the Buffalo Sabres, and for that I am grateful. At the start of the season right after the Sabres jumped out to their 0-6 start or whatever it was, I made a bet with the editor of Canucks Army, Dimitri Filipovic, that the Sabres would reach 15 wins this season. I’m sitting pretty in that regard, thanks mostly to their 6-2 shootout record. 

(Unfortunately, I also bet Dimitri that David Clarkson would score at least 14 goals, and not only has he not, but he’s looked brutal in not doing so. My opinions on Clarkson may be subjective from here on out, but hey! He is on pace to score 45 goals over the duration of his seven-year contract.)

The 2013-2014 Buffalo Sabres everyone! Projected by at least one amateur oddsmaker to have fewer wins than David Clarkson had goals!


  Sabres Maple Leafs
Corsi Close % 42.3% (30th) 42.4% (29th)
5v5 GF/60 1.42 (30th) 2.12 (19th)
5v5 GA/60 2.36 (19th) 2.44 (23rd)
5v5 Diff/60 -0.94 (30th) -0.32 (23rd)
PDO 98.4 (27th) 101.2 (7th)
  Sabres Maple Leafs
5v4 GF/60 4.46 (27th) 7.61 (5th)
5v4 SF/60 47.0 (26th) 55.4 (7th)
4v5 GA/60 6.15 (13th) 6.45 (16th)
4v5 SA/60 64.3 (30th) 62.9 (28th)
Penalty Differential -4 (18th) -15 (27th)

via ExtraSkater and NHL

The following chart is the game-by-game 5-on-5 Fenwick Close percentage by the Sabres, with the black line representing 50%, or breaking even. The Sabres were hovering below a 40% Fenwick rate (Fenwick = unblocked shot attempts) for a while there, which is unconscionably bad, but you can tell it’s, uh, picked up since about November 24? They’re not being out-shot by as badly: 

That’s the best thing you can say about the Sabres. Their team is basically Ryan Miller and one or two bright spots. I think the worst thing for the Sabres is that it doesn’t seem like they’ve even come close to bottoming out for a draft pick. They’re tanking in a season with no consensus No. 1 pick, and will probably be just a bit better next year when it comes time for Connor McDavid to enter the draft.

As for the Leafs, we’re past the midway point so have an idea of what they are: they struggle to prevent goals (moreso than scoring them, judging by league ranks) but that’s based on the volume of shots they give up, not their goaltending. Their .930 save percentage at 5-on-5 is 6th in the league, and their overall .919 is 7th. Tough to tell whether that’ll go up or down, since crazy things happen to goalies in half a season. Remember when Sergei Bobrovsky won a Vezina Trophy?


Both teams played a game yesterday, so the only thing I’m thinking worth talking about the lineups is that Ryan Miller will play for Buffalo and James Reimer for the Leafs. 

I want to talk up Peter Holland though. I love his offensive game, but I worry that he’s too limited on the defensive side of the ice. Based on With and Without You puck-possession numbers found at Hockey Analysis, I’m not confident in saying anything other than “he’s better on the ice when out with Jake Gardiner” which probably goes for half the Leafs. Holland doesn’t have a visible effect on Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, or Mason Raymond, and given how good he looks at one end of the ice, it has me thinking that he’s the defensive equivalent of the nicotine patch.

Still, the things he does make me giddy. Here was a zone exit he had a night ago against Boston:

First off, what the heck was he doing in front of the net? But that’s not important. What’s important is he took the puck away from Milan Lucic without losing any momentum, and then dished the puck off for a controlled zone entry. I’m big on entering and exiting the zone with possession, rather than chipping the puck through zones and hoping the other team doesn’t recover the puck. 

My favourite one was earlier this year. Yes, I remember these things. Yes, I watch the games. Yes, I appreciate much stranger aspects of the game than most fans:

Not pictured in the video is that Phoenix, right before that faceoff, had about a minute of offensive zone pressure, so that was a pretty big clear by Holland. Mason Raymond drew a penalty in the offensive zone. 

Randy Carlyle’s system hinders defencemen from controlled exits and he prefers to pass the puck. The idea is that they can counter-attack with numbers if a forward takes control of the puck, which is one advantage I guess of having every forward so far below the puck in the defensive zone. When it’s successful, it looks pretty cool.

I cut off the first video just before David Clarkson completely whiffed on the shot.

Also, hey! Toronto have won two straight games and have a pretty good chance for a third. Start of a brief two-game homestand before flying out West for games in Phoenix, Denver, Dallas and Winnipeg. We can call it the Icy Hot trip. The Leafs and the Sabres are playing on TSN tonight and the game starts at 7:30. Lines and Fantasy information at Daily Faceoff.