Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
The Buffalo Sabres are off until Saturday when they face the Boston Bruins in Beantown. After 2 1/2 months of growing pains the Sabres are at 14-16-4 good for 25th in the league. As a team they've been learning and adapting to a whole new system under head coach Dan Bylsma, while also skating with a bevy of new faces, and as one would expect they're having their ups and downs.
The offense as a whole hasn't been tearing it up but progress is being made while individually, there's been some exceptional play and some not so exceptional play. Some quick hits on how the forwards are doing so far on an individual basis:
Ryan O'Reilly--has been a force and has been instrumental in helping linemate Sam Reinhart adapt and succeed. Top player on the Sabres, bar-none, one of the top two-way players in the league as well. Continues to impress on the ice and hates to lose which will serve this young team well moving forward.
Sam Reinhart--after a slow start, has really found his groove. Reinhart has been working with O'Reilly after practice and it shows as he's improved shot (8 goals, 12.3 shooting percentage) and has really developed chemistry with O'Reilly. Kids got the hockey sense and ample skill, is beginning to figure out how to overcome minor size-issues at the NHL-level. Leads the team in plus/minus with a plus-2.
Jack Eichel--an incredible talent with blazing speed and has the ability to develop into something real special. Teams continue to throw bodies in his path to stop him before he gets started and he's yet to find a way to counter that. Linemates who can open up a bit more ice for him would help as would him using his linemates more. Second on the team with nine goals.
Evander Kane--missed 10 games due to injury but has kicked it up with six goals and three assists in his last 13 games. Needs to keep his north/south aggressive game rolling. He an Eichel on the same line hasn't been a total disaster, but try connecting the same poles of two different magnets.
Jamie McGinn--has been a pleasant surprise. Missed all but 19 games last season with Colorado then was surprised when the Avalanche shipped him and O'Reilly to Buffalo. Has speed, tenacity as well as finish and looks real good out there. Huge benefit being on a line with O'Reilly and Reinhart, but has proven he can hold his own in a top-six winger role.
Zemgus Girgensons--disappointing on the offensive side (2g, 3a) but one would think that he's not been disappointing in the role Bylsma has given him. As the third-line center Girgensons has had the unenviable task of taking on the opposition's top lines. And he's a minus-1. Former coach Jim Montgomery told us, "whatever situation he is put in the coach is going to love him and his teammates are going to love him."
Tyler Ennis--was having some troubles before he went down with an injury. Kid can weave in and out of a defense, stickhandle in a phone booth and put the puck in the net. When he's on he can work some magic, when he's off, which has been most of the year, he's doin' a whole lotta choppin' with no chips flyin'.
Matt Moulson--would you believe he's tied for sixth on the team in points? Moulson has struggled mightily and now finds himself on the fourth line thanks to the emergence of Reinhart and McGinn on the top line. A scorer on the fourth line could mean a banishment to King Moonracer's press-box island for a game or two.
Brian Gionta--Started the year off real strong but has fallen back a bit. At 36 yrs. old shows bursts of speed that had him keeping up with the big dogs on the top lines. But that was earlier in the season. May have found a home on the third line with Girgensons. Has been the best, most consistent line three games running.
Johan Larsson--he may also have found his place. Like Gionta, Bylsma had him up in the top six but it didn't work out so now Larssons nipping at the ankles of the opposition on the third line. When he's on his game he's a pest, and when that line is on, their aggressive on the forecheck. And right now, they're on.
David Legwand--most wondered what the 35 yr. old had to offer a young team like Buffalo's, but he's proven to be a stabilizing force. Bylsma has been using his fourth line quite often and it's because he trusts them with Legwand on it. He's also anchoring the top penalty kill unit up-front with O'Reilly, a unit that's shown steady improvement as of late.
Marcus Foligno--another one who may have found his home. As a power forward Foligno plays a real strong game, as a scorer? Still needs work. May be settling into his role as a bottom-six player who can contribute offensively.
Nic Deslauriers--has a motor that's non-stop and a crazed look in his eye that says he's ready to get it on at any time. Deslauriers is in his second full season and is another one who knows his role and gives it everything he's got when on the ice.