The preseason has its share of ridiculous final every year and last night’s game in Buffalo falls into that class as the Toronto Maple Leafs put up eight goals on the Sabres. This game might as well have been a scrimmage because it got out of hand early with the Leafs scoring four goals in the first period and they did whatever they wanted for the rest of the contest. This isn’t to say that the Sabres didn’t try, but they were playing very conservative after the score got out of reach and only tried to create offense if they had a power play. Outside of that, both teams looked more concerned with preventing injuries and running the clock out, which is understandable given it was a blowout in a meaningless game.
This is what I took away from it:
- Mitch Marner’s going to be one of my favorite players to watch when he gets into the league. Toronto had their fair share of power plays and he was a centerpiece of everyone of them, making lots of cross-ice passes that very few players can complete. Games with a lot of power plays are always fun because there’s more room for guys like Marner to do their thing and he certainly did that when he got the chance.
- Frank Corrado is doing everything he can to not spend the first few months of the season in the press box. You can’t put all of your stock in the preseason, but he did play well tonight.
- The roster Buffalo dressed tonight was very similar to what they sent out in the tank years, except Sam Reinhart is a lot better now. Him, Tyler Ennis & Justin Bailey were the only guys who stood out to me for the Sabres.
- Connor Carrick is a really fun defenseman to watch.
- I added a new wrinkle to my zone entry & entry defense stats. Instead of noting who the middle driver was on an entry, I’m now tracking if the player who entered the zone made a successful pass to a teammate after doing so. Since I track offense & defense on the same spreadsheet, I can look at both angles and we now have both stats. This is taken from Ryan Stimson’s article on passing plays in the neutral zone, where he found that controlled entries with passing plays led to higher quality shots (i.e. shots with a higher shooting percentage) than ones where a player just carries the puck in and immediately takes a shot on the goaltender. You might remember that I said something about this in regards to Emerson Etem in my Canucks/Oilers recap but didn’t post numbers to back it up. Well, now we’re going to have numbers to back this up so yay for that. We might be able to use this to see if there are any defensemen who excel at breaking up passes and negating shots even when they allow opposing players to carry the puck in. There’s nothing to be learned from this game, but I wanted to introduce a new stat before just throwing it on you.
As for getting rid of the middle driver category, it didn’t have much impact on the results when I tracked it for the playoffs, so I figure that it’s pointless to continue with it.
Now, let’s get on with the stats.
all data is 5v5 unless noted otherwise
Buffalo Sabres Shots
Toronto Maple Leafs Shots
Buffalo Pass Zones
Toronto Pass Zones
Buffalo Zone Entries
Toronto Zone Entries
Buffalo Zone Entry Defense
Toronto Zone Entry Defense
Buffalo Zone Exits
Toronto Zone Exits