Going into this season, he knew he would have to continue to play better if he wants to keep his spot on the Maple Leafs second defense pairing. He has great chemistry with Jake Muzzin on that second pairing.
The team adding new additions such as Mikko Lehtonen, Zach Bogosian, and T.J. Brodie, coupled with prospect Rasmus Sandin wanting to earn a spot, should give Holl the motivation he needs to keep his place.
Justin Holl 2019-20 Season
The 2019-20 season was the first full NHL season for Holl. I think he did better than a lot of people gave him credit. He and Muzzin formed a decent shutdown pair for the Leafs.
Holl recorded two goals and 16 assists for 18 points last season in 68 games. All 18 points were at even strength. As good as points are, he is a shutdown defenseman, so they are just a bonus.
He had 83 blocked shots and 89 hits last season, along with 21 takeaways. Those are pretty good numbers to have, although it would have been better with more takeaways.
One thing that was not good about Justin Holl’s game last season was his number of giveaways. He had a total of 59 giveaways during the 2019-20 season. That will be an area that he will need to improve on this season.
His giveaways cost the Leafs during their five-game play-in series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He had six giveaways in that series and finished the series with a -3 rating.
There is no doubt that he will use those past mistakes to fuel his desire to be better and keep his spot on the Maple Leafs defense.
Justin Holl 2020-21 Season
We are only six games into this season, and Holl looks pretty good so far. He has four assists early on, which is good for a defenseman who is mostly a shutdown guy. Holl has also seen his ice time go up by almost three minutes compared to last season. This season he is averaging 21:15 minutes per game compared to 18:31 previous season.
Holl’s chemistry with Muzzin on the Leafs’ second pairing has continued to grow since being put together last season. The two have worked well together, and as a pair, they have developed into a nice shutdown pair that coach Sheldon Keefe can trust.
This season, Justin Holl has 12 blocked shots, 13 hits to go along with three takeaways and just one giveaway. He’s using his size better this season to remove opponents away from the Leaf’s crease. Something that his game was lacking before but is now using to his advantage.
In the Maple Leafs’ last two games, which were both against the Edmonton Oilers, it was Holl and Muzzin that Keefe used the most at shutting down Oilers superstar Connor McDavid. Together, the pair held McDavid to just two points, which is no easy task.
Final Thoughts On Justin Holl
While watching the Maple Leafs last season, I could see that Holl had the tools needed to be a top-four defenseman for this team. I thought he played well with Muzzin and hoped that the two would continue to grow as a pair this season.
So far, so good for both of them, and we’re starting to see the Leafs coaching staff trust them more and use them to shut down the top lines on other teams. I hope Justin Holl will continue to learn and develop further into an even better shutdown guy for the Leafs as this season goes on and for seasons to come.
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