The Buffalo Sabres recently completed a three game stretch against Pennsylvania’s NHL clubs. While dropping a hard-fought game to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night, Buffalo managed to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers twice during this stretch. The Sabres compiled a 2-1-0 record against Pennsylvania’s hockey clubs to close out the month of October and their current record of 4-7-0 is the 25th best in the NHL.
Buffalo is steadily improving and developing into a difficult team to play against. The club has managed to score three or more goals in each of their last four games. The Sabres have shown resilience by battling back after falling behind, set a physical tone with their opposition, and they have generated many quality scoring chances.
The Sabres’ record along with several other facets of their game still need improvement but the club has shown many positive signs during their recent three game stretch. Buffalo is demonstrating that they are a very different team than the last place club that they were for the past two seasons. Here is a look at what went right for the Sabres during their last three games against Pennsylvania’s NHL clubs.
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Key Contributions From A Variety of Sabres
An important theme surrounding Buffalo’s recent games against the Flyers and Penguins is the contributions the club has received from a variety of their players. Ryan O’Reilly has been Buffalo’s best player during this stretch. According to NHL.com, O’Reilly scored one goal and tallied six points in his last three games. He has also been relied upon in key situations and his vocal leadership has been valuable to his teammates.
The rest of Buffalo’s scoring during the past three games has been distributed among a mix of the team’s players. Jamie McGinn and Nicolas Deslauriers have been valuable to the Sabres scoring two goals each. Meanwhile, youngster Johan Larsson notched three assists while Buffalo’s captain Brian Gionta and defenseman Cody Franson each contributed two assists.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 28, 2015
Zemgus Girgensons has struggled to get onto the score sheet but this is not due to a lack of effort. While he has struggled on offense, Girgensons has contributed to the team in other ways. According to NHL.com, Girgensons has 20 hits, won 46.3 percent of his draws, has eight blocked shots, and he averaged nearly 17 minutes of ice time during the month of October.
Girgensons’ luck started to change during Tuesday night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Shortly after a simply outstanding save by Sabres’ goaltender Chad Johnson, Girgensons skated into the Philadelphia zone on a breakaway and beat Flyers’ goaltender Steve Mason in overtime to secure the victory.
Sabres Finding Ways to Outwork Their Opposition
There are several aspects of the Sabres’ last three games where the club outworked their opponents. One area where the Sabres outperformed the Flyers and Penguins was in total shots. During the past three games, Buffalo outshot Philadelphia and Pittsburgh by a 129 to 90 shot count. While the Sabres lost to the Penguins by a 4-3 score, Buffalo still managed to outshoot Pittsburgh by a 53 to 29 margin.
According to @EliasSports, Buffalo's 53 shots were two shy of the team's record for most in a regulation loss is 55 (Oct. 24, 1974 at LAK).
— Sabres PR (@SabresPR) October 30, 2015
Another key to the Sabres’ success was their ability to play a disciplined game. During the past three games, the Sabres logged three less overall penalty minutes than their opposition. Buffalo was assessed a total of three two-minute penalties during Tuesday night’s tilt with the Flyers and Thursday night’s game against the Penguins. While the on-ice atmosphere got a bit hostile during Friday night’s game against the Flyers, Buffalo still managed to accrue less penalty minutes than Philadelphia during this game.
Finally, Buffalo has also found ways to be successful on faceoffs. The Sabres have won 100 draws during the past three games while their opposition has won 93. A major contributor to the Sabres’ success in the circle has been Ryan O’Reilly. O’Reilly has won an average of more than 60 percent of his faceoffs during the past three games.
Buffalo has shown a steady improvement since the beginning of the 2015-16 season. Goal scoring is beginning to happen more consistently which has helped the club win two of their last three contests. The Sabres will look to build upon their recent success as they continue to develop their new brand of hockey.
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Tim joined The Hockey Writers in July 2013. He began his tenure with THW by covering the Minnesota Wild and he now writes on the Buffalo Sabres. Tim completed his undergraduate and graduate work at the University at Buffalo. In addition, he is a published historian and a Baltimore Orioles Contributing Writer for LegendsOnDeck.com. Tim’s work for THW has been featured on sites such as Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @TOHockeyTHW