There is a new fourth line in town and they are…… surprisingly pretty good.
The line of Par Lindholm, Frederik Gauthier and Trevor Moore has exceeded expectations thus far and are doing it in their own way. The Leafs top-nine is full of stars and is able to complete tasks on the ice in a stylish fashion.
In contrast, the Leafs new-look fourth line does things a bit differently. It’s only been three games so we aren’t going to vote this line into the All-Star game just yet but their play deserves to be talked about. With that said, it’s nice knowing that the Leafs can lose forwards to injuries and still ice a productive fourth line.
In this article, I’ll be looking into each member of this line and what has made them successful thus far.
Thanks to the injuries of Zach Hyman and Tyler Ennis, Trevor Moore has been given a chance to play with the big club.
Trevor Moore walked into Leafs development camp in 2016 as a 21-year-old undrafted free agent. he earned himself an ELC within the week.
2 years (and a Calder Cup) later, he’s in the NHL.
that’s pretty cool.
— Mike Stephens (@mikeystephens81) November 3, 2018
Moore has been the best forward on the Marlies this season. He has 17 goals in 27 games and has looked overqualified for the AHL this season.
New #LeafsForever winger Trevor Moore's impact on the Marlies
– 1st in Goals (16)
– 2nd in Penalties Drawn (12)
– 2nd in Game Score / 60 (3.79)
– 1st in forward ATOI (~18:25)
– 2nd in Corsi (65.6%)
– 1st in Corsi Rel (+10.9%)
– 5th in 5v5 Pts/60 (2.52)
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) December 29, 2018
As for his limited time in the NHL, Moore hasn’t looked out of place. The clips later in this article demonstrate what Moore has done for the Leafs thus far.
Gauthier has had his own version of a “breakout” season. He hasn’t been posting huge offensive numbers but it seems like every time the Leafs have a productive fourth line, he’s the guy who’s playing center. He’s a responsible player who provides great puck-support and can win battles. Gauthier has clearly improved his skating and it has helped his overall game. Leafs management continues to believe in him and in return, he’s been a serviceable 13th forward for them this season.
In 2015, Kyle Dubas was asked how he felt Frederik Gauthier pans out according to "advanced stats". At the time, his answer really surprised me.
Fast forward three years and Gauthier is rocking a 56.82CF% at 5v5 in the NHL despite receiving a lot of defensive-zone starts. pic.twitter.com/nVyVWga6RW
— Nick DeSouza (@NickDeSouza_) October 31, 2018
Par Lindholm has been a tough player to assess this year. He has shown flashes of strong play but also goes through spells of being invisible. When at his best, Lindholm is a hard worker off-the-puck and has been a reliable penalty killer for Mike Babcock. In saying that, as the season has drawn on, it looks more and more like the Leafs have other players that can do a better job than Lindholm. For instance, as eluded to earlier, the fourth line has been better with Gauthier as its center.
Furthermore, with the introduction of Trevor Moore, it might be difficult to justify playing Lindholm on the wing once the team gets Zach Hyman and Tyler Ennis back.
As for Lindholm’s time playing with Gauthier and Moore, he has been noticeably productive. Lindholm gives this line with another puck pursuer, along with Trevor Moore. Lindholm has collected two primary assists in the past three games, as he set up both Frederik Gauthier goals.
Here’s Gauthier’s second goal of the week. Lindholm is excellent off-the-puck in this clip and tops it off with a slick pass to Freddy the Goat.
Below I have a few clips of the new-look fourth line:
Defensive zone coverage and Zone Exits
This line has looked quite structured when in their own end. Moore and Lindholm’s work ethic provides constant pressure on the opposition and Gauthier picks his spots very well in terms of when to attack the puck-carrier.
When it comes to their zone exits we have seen a consistent method that this line uses. Gauthier usually provides a passing option around the hash mark of the defenseman with the puck. In contrast, Moore and Lindholm skate up the ice which provides a “stretch” option if the defenceman wants to clear the puck.
Here’s a great example of this line’s overall formation. Dermott is pinned into the left side. Gauthier is a close passing option and provides a safety net in case Dermott loses possession of the puck. As soon as the puck is loose, Ozhiganov has both Trevor Moore and Lindholm down the ice as stretch options. It’s not pretty, but it works.
Here, their neutral zone pressure forces Columbus to dump the puck in. Lindholm receives the pass from Gardiner, then right away chips it off the boards knowing Moore will be there. Trevor Moore uses his speed to win the race then shows off some poise by waiting for his teammates to enter the zone before passing it off.
Frederik Gauthier’s role in their zone exits is on display in these next two clips. As stated above, he provides a safety net in case the Leafs lose possession of the puck…. Oh yeah, Trevor Moore can really skate.
Holl makes a great defensive play at the line to deny the incoming forward. Gauthier provides the support then follows the play and gets rewarded with his first goal of the season. If you could draw out a vintage Gauthier goal, this is it.
Here’s an example of their defensive zone coverage. They do a good job of keeping the Red Wings to the outside. Despite Lindholm failing to clear the puck and a potential missed penalty call on Luke Glendening, the Leafs still do not give up a dangerous scoring chance. It’s a very small sample but so far, the trio of Lindholm, Gauthier, and Moore have posted strong numbers in terms of generating high danger shot-attempts while preventing them for the other team.
I really like the Leafs new fourth line.
They might not keep possession of the puck very well but their ability to win it back has been incredible. Count how many times the Leafs regain possession of the puck in this 30-second clip. pic.twitter.com/fo4a77esjh
— Nick DeSouza (@NickDeSouza_) December 29, 2018
One thing that stands out about this line is that you have three very active players without the puck. Here, their puck pressure drives Detroit back into their own zone. In the end, the Red Wings get a bit lucky in my opinion as Travis Dermott gets his legs tangled up which leads to a partial breakaway goal. Despite the result, I like what I see here from the fourth line.
Here, they have some trouble generating a scoring chance. Lindholm loses the puck but recovers well by covering for the pinching Travis Dermott.
Thus far, Trevor Moore has done the heavy-lifting for this line in terms of advancing the puck into the offensive zone as well as the creation of scoring chances.
This past week I posted a question on Twitter regarding who the twelve best forwards on the Leafs are and it wasn’t as decisive as one might think.
Updated votes: Ennis takes Brown over for fourth place. Grundstrom gets a huge second vote. Moore closing gap on Lindholm.
— Nick DeSouza (@NickDeSouza_) December 29, 2018
If the new-look fourth line can continue to play well, Mike Babcock could face some tough decisions regarding who comes out of the lineup in the near future.
The gap between certain roster player’s and their replacement is becoming smaller and it is going to benefit the Leafs for a few reasons. If they continue to face injuries (knock on wood), it’s reassuring knowing that the Leafs have players who can step up and be productive. In addition, it’s no secret that the Leafs want to acquire a top-four defenseman. If they do, there’s a large chance they would have to include a roster player in the package. Having a number of good depth forwards who can be bumped up in the lineup could help soften the loss of that roster player.
We usually see Leafs management optimize their lineup around February and there’s a number of directions they can take this roster. But for now, we can sit back and enjoy this new-look fourth line. They have been productive and hopefully will be able to continue their play going forward.
Thanks for reading.