Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
Rise of the Youngins.
One thing you'll notice throughout the individual stats for the month of November is the increase in production from many of the young building blocks for Buffalo. Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen was rockin' it from the back-end and saw his point total nearly triple as he added nine points (3+6) to the five points he had last month. His 14 points on the season places him in a tie for 12th in the league amongst defensemen. He also had the most primary assists (4) amongst the Sabres last month.
Rookie Sam Reinhart got himself into the offensive flow with a team-leading five goals for the month. During October he was acclimating himself to the NHL and was doing plenty of the little things to grab the coaches attention, like creating a screen or playing defensively sound hockey (even, plus/minus last month.) November saw head coach Dan Bylsma increase Reinhart's ice-time and give him more responsibility. The 2014 second-overall pick responded well.
Another rookie, Jack Eichel, just continued doing what Jack does--electrify. He matched his four goals from the previous month while also adding four assists, meaning his linemates were finally able to get involved. His 12 points place him behind Ryan O'Reilly and Ristolainen for the team lead while his eight goals ties him with O'Reilly atop the Sabres.
Speaking of O'Reilly, he's been the workhorse for Bylsma and has consistently put up solid numbers. He added six points this month on four goals and two primary assists and is now on pace for 27 goals and 38 assists rivaling his career highs when he was with the Colorado Avalanche. The great part about O'Reilly is that his worth is not measured in production stats alone. His 58.8% faceoff win percentage is third amongst players taking 400 or more faceoffs (Jonathan Toews, CHI, 61.0; Claude Giroux, PHI, 59.8) and while two-way forward Zemgus Girgensons was nursing an injury for four games, O'Reilly and his linemates--veterans Matt Moulson and Brian Gionta--were in a shut-down role taking nearly every important defensive zone faceoff. O'Reilly's 21:39 ATOI is tops in the league amongst forwards.
While Ristolainen, Reinhart and Eichel, along with O'Reilly were pacing the offense, the vets were holding the fort on defense. A look at the best plus/minus stats for last month has 35 yr. old David Legwand and 31 yr. old defenseman Josh Gorges leading the way with 32 yr. old Carlo Colaiacovo not far behind. During the Sabres six-game winless streak (0-4-2) when the team was being outscored by a combined 15-7, Legwand was a plus-1, Gorges was a plus-1 while playing top-pairing minutes and Colaiacovo was even while playing in five of those six games.
Legwand had a particularly strong month and if we gave out an unsung hero award, he'd be my nominee. The fourth-liner who many considered a throw-in (myself included) in the Robin Lehner trade, scored his first two goals of the season and added four assists (two primary) while averaging only 9:36 TOI per game. Only one player averaged less ice time--Tim Schaller (8:36.) Legwand has been quietly getting the job done and Bylsma rewarded him with some powerplay time when the Sabres had a five-minute powerplay at Nashville on Saturday. He was able to shield the puck and get it out to Moulson who found Reinhart alone in the slot for a powerplay goal.
Goals with the man advantage were in desperate need in Dallas as the Sabres went into the game in an 0-13 slump. As seen in the individual stats, there were very few goals scored with the man advantage and it could be said that a game or two were lost due to a stagnant powerplay. At one point the Sabres were ranked as high as third in the NHL with the man advantage, but it went south in November.
On the offensive side of the equation, overall, every player has at least one point so far this season and an interesting stat for the month has 16 of the 22 players on the team registering a primary assist so nearly everybody's getting involved in the offense.
The defense has been solid and slowly gaining a foothold thanks to the stellar play of goaltender Chad Johnson as well as some good, albeit inconsistent, work of rookie Linus Ullmark.
Johnson has been just short of brilliant over the last five decisions he's been involved in going 3-1-1 while allowing only eight goals on 174 shots for a .954 save percentage. Overall Johnson saw his save percentage rise from .881 to .913 while his goals-against dropped from 3.16 to 2.37, significant numbers that helped him increase his 2014-15 record to 6-7-1.
On the dark side, Tyler Ennis was having an awful month before he was sidelined with an injury. His point production plummeted while his plus/minus was a team-worst minus-6 for the month. Johan Larsson didn't fare much better. Bylsma has given him every opportunity to score, which included extensive time on Eichel's wing, but it was all for naught. Larsson was benched the last two games--two victories by the same 4-1 score.
The Sabres head into the month of December having weathered a pretty tough stretch against some Western Conference powers. After their winless streak they finished strong with back-to-back 4-1 wins and will have some momentum as they gear up for 14 games in December. What it comes down to for them is they need to score goals by whatever means necessary. Although the goaltending has been stout, ya never know when a career back-up like Johnson or a rookie like Ullmark will go cold. And they usually do.
Hopefully there will be some goals to counter that.
Buffalo Sabres Individual Stats:
--October: Ryan O'Reilly, 13; Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson, Rasmus Ristolainen, Cody Franson, 5
--November: Ristolainen, 9; Jack Eichel, 8; O'Reilly, 6
--October: O'Reilly, Eichel, 4; Ennis, Moulson, 3
--November: Sam Reinhart, 5; Eichel, O'Reilly, 4
--October: O'Reilly, 3; Eichel, Ennis, 2
--November: Reinhart, 2; Eichel, O'Reilly, Jamie McGinn, Ristolainen, 1
--October: O'Reilly, 9; Franson, 5; Marcus Foligno, Ristolainen, 4
--November: Ristolainen, 6; Ennis, 5; Eichel, Moulson, Legwand, 4
--October: O'Reilly, 5; Foligno, Sam Reinhart, Franson, 3
--November: Ristolainen, 4; Moulson, 3; Eichel, O'Reilly, Legwand, Franson, 2
--October: O'Reilly 4, Franson, 3 Kane, Brian Gionta, Foligno, Ristolainen, 2
--November: Franson, 3; Ennis, 2; Eichel, O'Reilly, Moulson, Gionta, Legwand, Ristolainen, 1
--October: Moulson, Reinhart, Johan Larsson, Tim Schaller, Zemgus Girgensons, 0
--November: Legwand, Josh Gorges, +4; McGinn, Foligno, Carlo Colaiacovo, +3
--October: Jamie McGinn, Eichel, -6; Kane, Ristolainen, Franson, -5
--November: Ennis, -6; Larsson, -3; Girgensons, Brian Gionta, Zach Bogosian, Jake McCabe, -1
--October: 0-0-0; 2.18 gaa; .917 sv.%; 0 shutouts (note: was injured in game-one)
--November: injured, no games played
--October: 3-6-0; 3.16; .881; 0 shutouts
--November: 6-7-1; 2.37; .913; 0
--October: 1-1-0; 2.55; .911; 0 shutouts
--November: 4-5-1; 2.50; .916; 0