Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
"Just the facts, Ma'am," was a classic Joe Friday line from the 1950's TV crime series, Dragnet, and the cool part about doing these month by month stats, is that oft times our preconceived notions about a player and/or how he's been playing is either propped up or derailed by "just the stats."
Case in point No. 1--Evander Kane.
Nary a Sabres fan out there would disagree that Ryan O'Reilly is the MVP of the team right now as he leads Buffalo in goals (15) and points (33,) and is tied for the lead in assists (18) while leading all forwards in average time on ice. Nor would they argue that after hitting the rookie wall in December, Jack Eichel has begun to assert himself on the scoresheet with two goals and seven assists in his last six games. Both are extremely good players who don't rock the boat (O'Reilly's off-season escapade at Tim Hortons not withstanding.)
Kane, however, is cut from a different cloth. He's been vilified for a non-criminal (as of yet) off-ice issue that occurred last month while on the ice Sabres fans have been chastising his play to the point where some seem ready to tie a noose around GM Tim Murray's neck for making that trade with Winnipeg.
After a slow start upon his return from injury midway through the month of November (zero points in three games) he proceeded to end the month with three points (1+2) in three games. In December he would bump it up a notch to six goals in 14 games for the Sabres placing him second behind O'Reilly's seven.
Case in point Nos. 2 and 3--Cody Franson and Mike Weber
Through much of this season, I've been lukewarm, at best, to defenseman Cody Franson but facts-is-facts. This month his plus-4 rating is second on the team behind his defense partner, Mike Weber (plus-5.) Weber's another one that's been a favorite whipping boy for fans as well but he's been playing extremely solid hockey after recovering from an injury that he and the team kept to themselves. Franson, a designated powerplay specialist has yet to score a powerplay goal and was eventually moved to the second powerplay unit, but ya gotta like the job he and Weber have been doing on the Sabres third defense pairing.
For all intents and purposes the show this season has belonged to O'Reilly and he continued hitting the score sheet in December with 14 points on seven goals and seven assists. His five powerplay points (2+3) were tied for the team lead with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (2+3) and they far surpassed the next closest competitor, Jamie McGinn's two points (1+1.)
Moving up the ranks like a thoroughbred who's just beginning to find his stride is Eichel, the 2015 second-overall pick. Although he only had three goals last month he did have eight assists and his seven primary assists outpaced O'Reilly's five. Eichel has had a number of hurdles to overcome over his first 38 NHL games as he's still getting accustomed to the NHL and the full attention of the opposition, but you can see he's ready to take off, especially now that he looks to be a fixture on the first powerplay unit.
The defense is looking better although three Buffalo defensemen were at the bottom of the plus/minus rankings last month--Josh Gorges (minus-5,) Zach Bogosian and Carlo Colaiacovo at minus-4. Joining those three was fourth-line forward Nic Delsauriers (minus-4,) and in a tough month for the energy line, Deslariers' linemates Marcus Foligno and David Legwand were both minus-3.
As mentioned in the team-stats the Sabres took it on the chin in the shots-on-goal department last month but their goaltending was superb. Chad Johnson's play throughout much of the season has many entertaining thoughts that he might be a possible starter while Linus Ullmark showed that although he tends to make rookie mistakes, his plusses far outweighed his minuses. Neither moved that far from their November statistics as they were only in the negative by a smidge. Johnson actually had a save percentage that was a bit higher than the previous month.
With the performances of Kane, Franson and Weber coming into the spotlight, it's best to be reminded that sometimes subjectivity severely hampers our ability to look at things objectively. This is not to say that any of those three played flawlessly, but all of them were able to have a positive impact on the stat-sheet last month.
The big thing moving forward is for them to maintain that pace and have others up their games. Should O'Reilly and Eichel maintain their level of play while being joined by more and more players, eventually we should see more wins.
At least that's the idea.
Buffalo Sabres Individual Stats:
--October: Ryan O'Reilly, 12; Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson, Rasmus Ristolainen, Cody Franson, 5
--November: Ristolainen, 9; Jack Eichel, 8; O'Reilly, 6
--December: Evander Kane, O'Reilly, 14; Eichel, Ristolainen, 11
--October: O'Reilly, Eichel, 4; Ennis, Moulson, 3
--November: Sam Reinhart, 5; Eichel, O'Reilly, 4
--December: O'Reilly, 7; Kane, 6; Jamie McGinn, 4
--October: O'Reilly, 3; Eichel, Ennis, 2
--November: Reinhart, 2; Eichel, O'Reilly, McGinn, Ristolainen, 1
--December: O'Reilly, Ristolainen, 2; Kane, Zemgus Girgensons, McGinn, 1
--October: O'Reilly, 9; Franson, 5; Marcus Foligno, Ristolainen, 4
--November: Ristolainen, 6; Ennis, 5; Eichel, Moulson, David Legwand, 4
--December: Eichel, Ristolainen, 8; O'Reilly, 7
--October: O'Reilly, 5; Foligno, Reinhart, Franson, 3
--November: Ristolainen, 4; Moulson, 3; Eichel, O'Reilly, Legwand, Franson, 2
--December: Eichel, 7; O'Reilly, 5; Reinhart, Ristolainen, 3
--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
--December: O'Reilly, Ristolainen, 3; seven players with one each
--October: Moulson, Reinhart, Johan Larsson, Tim Schaller, Girgensons, 0
--November: Legwand, Josh Gorges, +4; McGinn, Foligno, Carlo Colaiacovo, +3
--December: Mike Weber, +5, Cody Franson, +4; McGinn, +2
--October: McGinn, Eichel, -6; Kane, Ristolainen, Franson, -5
--November: Ennis, -6; Larsson, -3; Girgensons, Brian Gionta, Zach Bogosian, Jake McCabe, -1
--December: Gorges, -5; Nic Deslauriers, Bogosian, Colaiacovo, -4
Goalies (year to date)
--October: 0-0-0; 2.18 gaa; .917 sv.%; 0 shutouts (note: was injured in game-one)
--November: injured, no games played
--December: injured, no games played
--October: 3-6-0; 3.16; .881; 0 shutouts
--November: 6-7-1; 2.37; .913; 0
--December: 10-10-2; 2.41; .917; 1
--October: 1-1-0; 2.55; .911; 0 shutouts
--November: 4-5-1; 2.50; .916; 0
--December: 5-9-2; 2.56; .914; 0