Halloween is over and the calendar has shifted to November.
Hockey is back, 11 Buffalo Sabres games have been played. It seems like we’ve started to get a handle on this year’s version of the Sabres.
No doubt at all that this team is not perfect, not ready to make the turn, but there is a large amount of improvement in the on-ice product from last October to this October.
Patience remains to be preached, as this team develops game-by-game, and week-by-week. With 13 more games to come in the month of November, we’ll see if the identity of this team develop even further.
The month of November could potentially bring the return of injured goaltender Robin Lehner, which would surely be a sight for sore eyes.
Before we move on, let’s look back at what October brought the Buffalo Sabres.
The Buffalo Sabres finished the month of October with a record of 4-7-0, compiling 8 of 22 points. The Sabres currently sit at 7th in the Atlantic and 14th in the Eastern Conference. Now, to look back at October’s “Quick Hits”:
- Ryan O’Reilly is a wondeful hockey player.
When the Buffalo Sabres acquired forward Ryan O’Reilly this offseason, it is hard to believe that anyone would’ve predicted O’Reilly would’ve started off this well.
In 11 games, O’Reilly has 13 points (4 goals, 9 assists). He is on pace for 96 points (29 goals, 67 assists), all three being career-highs.
Yes, understandable that O’Reilly is shooting 14.3 this year and his career shooting percentage is 10.3%. Regression will happen, but O’Reilly is playing absolutely fantastic.
3 of O’Reilly’s 4 goals have come on the power play. He averaged 3 power play goals per season while in Colorado, so mark that box off. O’Reilly averaged 6.5 assists on the power play, and currently has 4. Oh yeah, and with those 7 power play points, O’Reilly is tied for the NHL lead. Things seem to going pretty well.
His corsi for percentage 5-on-5 is 57.1%. No idea what this means? I’ll try to grandma explain to y’all.
In a nutshell, this means that the Buffalo Sabres make 57.1% more shot attempts when Ryan O’Reilly is on the ice (157 shots for, 116 shots against) than when he is on the bench.
To go further, O’Reilly’s corsi for percentage relative is 8.2%. That stat simply tells us that the Buffalo Sabres allow 8 more shot attempts on net per 60 minutes when O’Reilly is not on the ice.
More stats to make your head spin? O’Reilly leads all National Hockey League forwards with 21:32.
71 games remain in the National Hockey League season, so we’re definitely in line for more O’Reilly magic.
- Injuries suck.
We all know this one too well.
Your expectations are through the roof as the season approaches, with the bevy of new talent and then injuries strike!
Before the season began, the Buffalo Sabres lost arguably their best defender in Zach Bogosian.
On the surface, nobody knows exactly what it wrong with Bogosian. Through Instagram photos, videos, sources and process of body part elimination, it seems as if Bogosian is currently working through a groin injury.
To further confirm the thought of a groin injury, Bogosian took a spin on the ice a week or so ago and immediately left. The team announced no setbacks but Bogosian appears to be working with something that is not fun.
Once Bogosian returns, the defense is expected to improved vastly. Cody Franson (20:12 TOI) and Mike Weber (17:01 TOI) should see a return to a role where he can be more effective.
Looking offensively now, Evander Kane appeared to be finding his role in the Buffalo Sabres offense.
And then, an unfortunate knee-on-knee collision at the boards with Devils’ defenseman David Schlemko took Kane down.
It is expected that Kane will miss 4 to 6 weeks with that looked like an MCL sprain. Not good news, but it certainly could’ve been worse.
The Buffalo Sabres offense is certainly going to miss the explosiveness of Evander Kane on offense, but this gives other players an opportunity.
Players like Johan Larsson and Nicolas Deslauriers will definitely benefit from the added ice time, and they will be able to prove their worth to head coach Dan Bylsma.
Arguably the biggest injury so far? Goaltender Robin Lehner.
A high-ankle sprain in the first game of the season,
Not only has the absence of Lehner adversely affected the on-ice product, but it has affected the Sabres’ development plans for better or worse.
As you have seen, the Sabres hand was forced. Chad Johnson played in 9 of 11 games this October (8 starts). Johnson ended the month with an ugly 3.16 GAA, and an utterly disastrous .881 save percentage. Want to know how we at BLTD Sports feel about that?
We call that CHAD JOHNSON STARTING IN GOAL DOT GIF.
Anyways, now that I have your attention..
Linus Ullmark is the good (hopefully) to come from all of this.
Ullmark was recalled to make his first National Hockey League debut on October 24 against the New Jersey Devils.
His first game was not bad, but it was clear that Ullmark was a little shaky and nervous. So, we look to the next start to see how Ullmark would fare.
The result on October 30 against the Flyers was much better. Ullmark allowed one goal on 28 shots, with the only goal coming with 3:26 left in the third. Awww yeah, Linus Ullmark grabs the ol’ Ryan Miller Shutout in his first NHL victory.
With Robin Lehner absent for a portion of the upcoming month, it seems like we’ll see a lot more of Ullmark and a lot less of Chad Johnson.
Not sure you’ll hear any Sabres fans complaining about that one.
- Jack Eichel was worth the wait.
I don’t feel like much needs to be said here that you don’t already know.
Jack Eichel absolutely was worth the 82 games of suffering that we may sometimes refer to as the 2014-15 National Hockey League season.
In the month of October, we saw überprospect Jack Eichel make his NHL debut. By the end of the month, it is hard to not be in love with Eichel.
Eichel is breathtaking on the ice, and a wonderful person off of the ice.
In 11 games, Eichel has 4 points (4 goals, 0 assists) and is averaging 19:06 TOI.
The fancy stats may not be as fancy for Eichel, but as he continues to improve and grow in the NHL, stats will improve.
One thing that should be pointed out about Eichel is that all 4 of his goals have come as a result of hard work and fantastic puck/stickhandling. No luck needed here, McDavid.
- Things aren’t going to be so bad.
Again, as mentioned, the Sabres won 4 of 11 games in the month of October. While fan’s expectations are absolutely ridiculous, and they’ll likely remain there, hockey is getting better.
Buffalo won 4 games THIS October in 11 games. The last two seasons, Buffalo combined for 4 wins in 26 October games. Perspective is a wonderful thing.
As mentioned, injuries have sucked a bunch of potential out of this franchise, but that hasn’t stopped this team.
Scoring is spread out throughout the lineup. Only two Sabres (Mark Pysyk and Mike Weber) have not recorded at least a point this season. Four players have 5 points, five players have 4 points. It is early, but the points being spread out among the lineup in the first month is a promising sign.
Time to teach y’all something else, this thing called PDO. It essentially works like this. Usually, teams hang around 100. If you’re higher than 100, you’ll usually regress at some point down towards 100 (this explains the post-playoff collapses of Calgary and Colorado). If you’re lower than 100, you’ll usually improve.
Fancy definition is save percentage plus shooting percentage. That’s why it is easier to just look at the 100 number. Less math necessary makes your life easier.
The Sabres are falling on some bad luck at this point (26th in NHL with a .952 PDO), which gives more credence to the thought that this team will certainly improve just based off “puck luck”.
Get comfortable, more hockey to come. We’ll be here to talk more as it happens. Stay tuned to BLTD Sports!