Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
January was a tale of two players for the Buffalo Sabres amidst maddening team inconsistency. Ryan O'Reilly and Jack Eichel are the Sabres top-two centers and for the first half of the season it was O'Reilly doing the heavy lifting. While Eichel was busy acclimating himself to the NHL-game, O'Reilly was busy leading the team in every statistical category save for plus/minus. In addition to that he lead all NHL forwards in average TOI (21:52) and was tops in the NHL in the number of faceoffs taken (1267) and his 57.1% is third in the league amongst those who've taken 1,000 faceoffs or more.
O'Reilly was a busy man, to say the least. And it was somewhat of a Herculean feat as he tried to almost singlehandedly lift the Sabres out of the basement while helping the entire team acclimate to new coaches with new system. Reports always have him as first one on the ice and last one off and he even made time to work with rookie Sam Reinhart on face offs and shots after practice.
He was pretty much St. O'Reilly throughout the first few months of the season but being a mere mortal, it took a heavy toll.
Good thing for the All-Star break. Although O'Reilly is in Nashville representing Buffalo as their lone All-Star time away from the everyday grind of the NHL should serve him well. O'Reilly's numbers took a dive last month as he went from 14 points (7+7) in December to only seven (2+5) last month. Dude was at his usual pace to start the month but entered the All-Star break with zero goals in nine games although he did have five assists.
Eichel was a different story. The rookie phenom slowly acclimated himself to the NHL game, hit a wall in mid-December then proceeded to pound his way through a threshold, unleashing his elite skill-level.
After going on a mini-tear that would see him with two goals and five assists in the last four games of December, Eichel started out with a bang (2+2 at Boston,) settled in, fell into a little slump then finished with seven points (3+4) in the last five games. Whereas O'Reilly seems to be plateauing, Eichel seems as if he's on the launch-pad with all booster primed and ready for takeoff.
O'Reilly and Eichel are the engines that drive the team and with Rasmus Ristolainen's steady production on the back-end, the Sabres have themselves a fine young trio.
The 21 yr. old Ristolainen is in his second full season with the club and just continues to produce at a rate that could see him become the first Buffalo defenseman to hit the 50-point mark since Garry Galley in '95-'96 and the youngest since recent NHL Hall of Fame inductee, Phil Housley.
The month of January, however, would belong to Eichel as he lead the team in every statistical category save for plus/minus rating. That category was lead by Matt Moulson and Tim Schaller at plus-2. Props to Josh Gorges and Mike Weber for coming in at a plus-1.
Buffalo had a difficult time last month scoring 5-on-5 goals and it contributed heavily to some extremely negative plus/minus ratings on the team. Of the 26 goals they scored, only nine were scored even strength and when you have numbers like that, players like O'Reilly, who's on the ice for a third of the game, and defensemen Ristolainen and Zach Bogosian, who regularly topped 23:00 of ice-time, are bound to have a pretty negative plus/minus rating.
At the bottom for the month were:
Jamie McGinn: -10
Evander Kane: -8
That said, there was a contributing factor to those deplorable numbers--empty net goals against.
The Sabres found themselves down headed into the third period a number of times and head coach Dan Bylsma pulled the goalie for the extra attacker and five empty-net goals were scored against the
Sabres. The players on the ice at the time all got dinged by a negative. On the list above, Bogosian and Ristolainen were on the ice for all five, O'Reilly and Kane were on for four and McGinn was on for three. In addition, O'Reilly, McGinn and Ristolainen were on the ice when the Minnesota Wild scored a short-handed goal against the Sabres which also contributes to the negative.
For a bit of perspective the bottom for the month without empty-net or short-handed negatives:
Not great for any of them save for Ristolainen, but a significant difference none-the-less. Oh, and as for Eichel. He clocked in at a minus-5 for the month but was even when you take out the four empty-netters and one shortie he was on the ice for.
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
--January: Eichel, 11; O'Reilly, 7; Kane, Ristolainen, 6
--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
--January: Eichel, 5; Reinhart, 4; Kane 3
--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
--January: Eichel, 3; Reinhart, 2; Kane, O'Reilly, McGinn, Franson, 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
--January: Eichel, 6; O'Reilly, Ristolainen, 5
--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
--January: Eichel, 5; Ristolainen, 4; Brian Gionta, 2
--October: O'Reilly 4, Franson, 3 Kane, 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
--January: Eichel, Ristolainen, 4; O'Reilly, 2
--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
--January: Moulson, Schaller +2; Gorges, Weber, +1
--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
--January: O'Reilly, -14; McGinn, -10; Bogosian, -9
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
--January: 1-3-0; 2.26; .936; 0
--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
--January: 12-13-3; 2.45; .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
--January: 7-10-2; 2.58; .915; 0