The Buffalo Sabres as a team enjoyed a lot of national media attention last month and they should have as their franchise-tying 10-game winning streak catapulted them to the top of the National Hockey League. There was a lot of love thrown Buffalo's way, especially towards the fans who endured years of dreadful hockey that at times looked as if there was no end in sight, and a lot of video dedicated to individual efforts that led the way for the Sabres. Just yesterday the NHL named 18 yr. old Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Dahlin as their rookie of the month for November.
Dahlin was heralded as one of the best d-prospects to come into the league in a long time and by the looks of it, he may very well be. The Sabres have been easing him into the lineup and last month he was moved him up a notch. In November Dahlin averaged just under 20 minutes of ice time and scored 10 points (1+9) in 15 games while also tying for the team lead in plus/minus with a plus-9 for the month. He was one of a trio of Sabres up front that led the team to an 11-win month, which was the most wins in a month for Buffalo since December, 2005.
Jeff Skinner was another member of that trio as he led the Sabres with 14 goals. The 26 yr. old left winger was acquired by Buffalo in August to provide goal-scoring, especially 5v5, and he's done just that. His 20 goals on the season is second in the league and he has a team-best plus-15 rating (sixth-best in the league) on the season for a Buffalo team that is ninth in the league in 5v5 goals.
When Sabres captain Jack Eichel wasn't leading a rush into the offensive zone or high-tailing it back on the back check, he was busy setting up his teammates for goals. Eichel led the team with 19 assists during the month of November, 14 of them being primary. Of the 15 games the Sabres played, Eichel had primary assists in 10 of them and four times he registered multi-primary assist-games.
Buffalo's "Big Three" for the month had plenty of help as a number of players contributed to the overall team success last month. Sam "The Forgotten One" Reinhart came out of an early season funk with a solid five goal and 10 assist (both second on the team) November while his plus-9 rating tied him with Dahlin for the team lead. Reinhart's 15 overall points were third behind Eichel (20) and Skinner (16.)
Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen was a bull on the ice all month and also scored his first two goals of the season in dramatic fashion. He had an overtime-winning blast at Montreal against the Canadiens and a smooth goal of the month candidate vs. the San Jose Sharks and Norris Trophy-winner Brent Burns. Ristolainen also added nine assists, which was tied with fellow d-man Dahlin for third on the team and his five primary helpers also placed him third on the Sabres.
We might also add 21 yr. old Tage Thompson to the list of contributors as he was third on the team in goals last month with four. Thompson struggled early in the season, was sat by the club but worked diligently during that time and had a really nice finish to the month. After scoring his first of the season vs. Pittsburgh on November 19, Thompson would add three more and finish the month with four goals in seven games.
There wasn't very much on the downside for the Sabres last month, which might be expected when the team goes 11-3-1. However, statistically speaking, Buffalo's fourth line didn't produce as much one might like and it showed in their plus-minus rating. Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson were both fixtures on the fourth line and they only contributed a combined five points (3+2) while they also were both at the bottom of the plus/minus ratings. Larsson's minus-3 was worst while Girgenson's minus-2 tied him for second-worst on the team with fellow forward Evan Rodirgues (1 goal, 3 assists,) who also spent time on the fourth line. However, they did, and have done, some tremendous work in a checking role which hasn't gone unnoticed.
Buffalo's goalie tandem of starter Carter Hutton and backup Linus Ullmark combined for Buffalo's 11 wins. Hutton had a career-best winning streak that stretched to seven games during the Sabres streak while Ullmark has yet to lose in regulation this season. The upticks in Hutton's overall numbers and the decline in Ullmark's belie their strong contributions during November as many a time, especially during the Sabres winning streak, both goalies came up big with crucial saves at important junctures in the game. It's something that doesn't show up on the stat sheet, but something that was definitely noticed by those watching.
Buffalo Sabres 2018-19 Individual Stats leaders
--October: Skinner, Eichel, 12; Pominville, 10
--November: Eichel, 20; Skinner, 16; Reinhart, 15
--October: Skinner, 6; Pominville, 5; Eichel, 4
--November: Skinner 14; Reinhart, 5; Thompson, 4
--October: Sheary, 3; Okposo, 2; four players with 1
--November: Skinner, 5; Reinhart, Rodrigues, Thompson, 1
--October: Eichel, 8; McCabe, Skinner, 6; Reinhart, Pominville, 5
--November: Eichel, 19; Reinhart, 10; Ristolainen, 9
--October: Skinner, Reinhart, 4; Eichel, Pominville, Okposo, Ristolainen, 3
--November: Eichel, 14; Reinhart, 8; Ristolainen, 5
--October: Reinhart, 4; Skinner, 3; four players with 2
--November: Eichel, 5; Dahlin, 4; Reinhart, Ristolainen, 2
--October: Skinner +10; Pominville +6; Beaulieu +3
--November: Reinhart, Dahlin, +9; Okposo, +8; Eichel, +7
--October: Ristolainen, -10; Reinhart, Sheary -7; Okposo, -6
--November: Larsson, -3; Girgensons, Rodrigues, Nelson, -2
--October: 4-4-1 record; 2.94 goals against; .910 save percentage; 0 shutouts
--November: 12-7-1; 2.63; .917; 0
--October: 2-0-1; 2.00 GAA; .935 Sv%; 1 shutout
--November: 5-0-2; 2.57; .927; 1