Published by hockeybuzz.com, 3-2-2018
The big news, of course, is that Jack Eichel went down with a high-ankle sprain in Buffalo's 4-2 win at Boston on February 10. The injury could keep the Sabres' leading scorer out for the rest of the season. Should the team doctors give the go, and the team agree that he can finish out the season on the ice, Eichel will get a handful of games to close out 2017-18.
Buffalo ended up winning that game in Boston, despite Eichel being felled early in the first period and the team finished his five games with a 2-2-1 record. After that the Sabres finished the month of February 4-4-1 which included another win vs. Boston and two wins against the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
How did they pull it off? It was a total team effort.
Ryan O'Reilly took over the reigns for Buffalo leading the team in scoring (12 points,) goals (5,) assists (7,) and primary assists (6.) In addition he lead the team on the powerplay with four goals and added three assists while also pulling off a plus-2 rating while leading all forwards in time on ice. His sidekick through it all was Sam Reinhart who was second to O'Reilly in points (10,) goals (4,) assists (6,) and primary assists (5.) Reinhart was tied for second overall on the team in plus/minus with a plus-3.
Those were the leaders, but the Sabres got secondary scoring as well, most notably from Evan Rodrigues and Scott Wilson, both of whom had four goals. Rodrigues had a particularly good month adding five assists to the mix for nine points which tied him for third on the team with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.
Although Ristolainen managed to get the job done on the back end with three goals and six assists from the blueline, his minus-6 rating which was second worst on the team behind Kyle Okposo's ungodly minus-10. Although Okposo did manage a goal and five assists on the powerplay, he recorded only two points 5v5 (1+1.)
Marco Scandella lead the team with a plus-4 rating for the month.
In addition to O'Reilly and Reinhart picking up their pace and Rodrigues finding his groove, defenseman Casey Nelson was a pleasant surprise as head coach Phil Housley continued to feed him minutes. From the February 8 game vs. the New York Islanders whe Housley paired him with Marco Scandella, Nelson skated under 19 minutes only once, in the last game of the month at Tampa. Nelson responded with a goal and five assists (three primary) and finished second on the team behind his partner Scandella with a plus-3 rating.
It was a team effort in scoring as seven players scored three or more goals for Buffalo in February. The previous best was six players in November while the other months were either four (twice) or three.
Between the pipes for Buffalo, the month of February belonged to backup goalie Chad Johnson. The 31 yr. old, who was rumored as possible trade-bait, finished the month with a 4-2-0 record while lowering his goals-against average (from 3.64 to 3.18) and increasing his save-percentage. Of particular note is that his four wins came against the top two teams in the division--Tampa and Boston. In those four games Johnson allowed a cumulative seven goals on 113 shots-against for a save percentage of .938.
Finally, the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline came and went with the Sabres making one move as they sent winger Evander Kane to San Jose for conditional 2nd and 4th round picks plus prospect Daniel O'Regan. Kane lead the team in scoring through October and November and was tied for the team lead in goals (15) to close December. Between January 1 and February 26, the day he was traded, Kane only scored five goals and left the with three consecutive 20-goal seasons.
Fans in Buffalo should root for a match between San Jose and Kane that will lead to a long-term relationship as the conditional 2019 second round pick turns into a 2019 first rounder if he re-signs with the club.
Buffalo Sabres 2017-18 Individual Stats leaders:
--October: Pominville, Kane, Eichel, 12; O'Reilly, 8
--November: Kane, 11; Okposo, 9; O'Reilly, 8
--December: Eichel, 16; Kane, 11; O'Reilly, 8
--January: Eichel, 14; Okposo, 12; Ristolainen, 11
--February: O'Reilly, 12; Reinhart, 10; Ristolainen, Rodrigues , 9
--October: Pominville, Kane, 6; Eichel, O'Reilly, 4
--November: Kane, 6; Pouliot, 4; Eichel, O'Reilly, Reinhart, Okposo, 3
--December: Eichel, 8; Kane, Okposo, 3; six with 2
--January: Eichel, Reinhart, 5; O'Reilly, 4; Okposo, 3
--February: O'Reilly, 5; Kane, Reinhart, Rodrigues, Wilson, 4; (three with 3)
--October: O'Reilly, 3; Pominville, Kane, Reinhart, 1
--November: O'Reilly, Pouliot, Reinhart, Okposo, 1
--December: Eichel, Kane, Pominville, Rodrigues, 1
--January: O'Reilly, Reinhart, 3; Okposo, 2
--February: O'Reilly, 4; Eichel, Kane, Pominville, Reinhart, Okposo, 1
--October: Eichel, 8 Pominville, Kane, 6
--November: Okposo, 6; Kane, O'Reilly, 5
--December: Eichel, Kane, 8; O'Reilly, 6; Scandella, 5
--January: Eichel, Okposo, Ristolainen, 9; O'Reilly, 6
--February: O'Reilly, 7; Reinhart, Okposo, Ristolainen, 6
--October: Kane, Ristolainen, 2; six players with 1
--November: Kane, 3; Okposo, 2; three players with 1
--December: Eichel, Ristolainen, 2; Kane, Reinhart, Okposo, 1
--January: Eichel, 7; Ristolainen, 6; Okposo, 4
--February: Ristolainen, 6; Okposo, 5; O'Reilly, 3
--October: Eichel, 7; O'Reilly, Ristolainen, 4; Kane, Beaulieu, 2
--November: Eichel, 4; O'Reilly, Okposo, 3; four players with 2
--December: Eichel, Kane, O'Reilly, 5; Scandella, 3; McCabe, 2
--January: Okposo, 7; Eichel, O'Reilly, Ristolainen, Scandella, 3
--February: O'Reilly, 6; Reinhart, 5; Okposo, Larsson, Nelson, 3
--October: Pominville, +3; Girgensons, Gorges, +1; Pouliot, even
--November: Reinhart, Nolan, Scandella, Antipin, even; Kane, Griffith, Gorges, -1
--December: O'Reilly, +2; Girgensons, Wilson, +1; Larsson, McCabe, even
--January: O'Reilly, +2, Ristolainen, Scandella, McCabe, even
--February: Scandella, +4; Pouliot, Reinhart, Nelson, +3; O'Reilly, +2
--October: O'Reilly, -9; Reinhart, -8; Okposo, -7
--November: O'Reilly, Larsson, -8; McCabe, -7; Beaulieu, -6
--December: Kane, Pominville, -7; Ristolainen, -6; Rodrigues, -5
--January: Girgensons, -7; Eichel, Beaulieu, Falk, -6
--February: Okposo, -10; Ristolainen, -6; Larsson, Wilson, Beaulieu, Antipin, -3
--October: 4-2-1; 2.78 GAA; .911 Sv%; 1 shutout
--November: 5-11-2; 2.92; . 906, 1
--December: 9-14-5; 2.74; .915; 1
--January: 11-19-6; 2.85; .912; 3
--February: 13-23-8; 2.95; .910; 3
--October: 1-3-1; 4.06 GAA; .879 Sv%; 0 shutouts
--November: 1-4-2; 3.59; .885; 0
--December: 1-6-3; 3.78; .881; 0
--January: 2-8-3; 3.64; .884; 0
--February: 6-10-3; 3.18; .896; 0
--January: 1-0-0; 1.00 GAA; .978 Sv%; 0 shutouts