Ryan O’Reilly is off to a slow start this season for the Buffalo Sabres. He’s only registered two assists through the first six games of the season. The struggles have gone beyond just his offensive production. He’s been one of the most reliable players on the team over the last two seasons but hasn’t seemed comfortable thus far.
O’Reilly could be one of the players who is having a little bit of a tougher time getting acclimated with Phil Housley’s new system. The Canadian born forward is not one of the fastest players on the ice, which could be making things more difficult for him in a system built around team speed. That being said, it’s not always about how fast you can skate. O’Reilly can play a quick game with his hockey IQ and skill in tight spaces.
Perhaps the most concerning part of his game have been the way he’s struggled in the defensive zone. O’Reilly has been one of the more reliable 200-foot players on the club. We’ve seen a few mental lapses in his end of the ice. As well as costly turnovers that have resulted in big goals against at critical points in the game. The turnover against the Canadiens on opening night and even the one last night against Ducks come to mind. Both resulting in a short-handed goal against to tie the game.
The offensive side of O’Reilly’s game seems to have improved while on the west coast trip. In the first three games of the season, he was unnoticeable offensively and acknowledged as much after the embarrassing 6-2 loss to the Devils. “Last three games I’ve been useless and it’s not good enough,” said O’Reilly.
He’s yet to put a goal on the board, but I think now he’s fallen into the area of being more snake-bitten than struggling to create offense. He had a good opportunity on the power play jump his stick last night against the Ducks and was unable to capitalize on a few chances in the previous two games.
At the end of the day, I wouldn’t worry too much about the start from O’Reilly. He’s scored at least 55 points in each of the previous four seasons. It’s unlikely that the 26-year-old has started to fall off at this point in his career. You can already see the slight improvement in his game from the start of the season. Once he becomes more comfortable in the new system and puts his first puck past a goaltender we’ll start to see the player we’re used to watching. O’Reilly is the type of player who’ll work hard to be an impact player for his team, which gives me confidence he’ll regain his old form.
Scale of 1-5 (1 - very concerned | 5 - not concerned) how concerned are you with O’Reilly’s start?
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