As the Buffalo Sabres prepare to re-enter NHL action after the CBA-mandated holiday break later this week, let’s take a look at how the Sabres are doing at this point in the season this year compared to years past. For comparison’s sake, we’ll look at this season and each of the last three seasons.
This Season (2018-19): 21-11-5, 6th in NHL
The Buffalo Sabres of this season are doing so incredibly better than the other Sabres teams of recent years, it’s almost unfathomable. The last time the Sabres entered the holiday break anywhere near the top of the NHL standings was 2009, when the team went 22-11-3 and was 10th in the league on December 26. This season’s record thus far is the team’s best at this point since 2006, when the Sabres were 25-7-3 and 2nd in the league.
Captain Jack Eichel is the team’s leading scorer, with 48 points in 37 games. This is the first time a Sabres player has had over 40 points on December 26th since 2006, when Daniel Briere had 42 points (14-28), and the most since 1992. That season at this point, four Sabres players had surpassed the 40-point mark, but only one had more than Eichel has now: Pat LaFontaine, who had 62 points in the team’s first 35 games.
Jeff Skinner has a team-high 26 goals and overall 38 points. That’s the most goals by a Sabres player prior to the holiday break since Alexander Mogilny had 28 goals in 29 games in 1992 at this point in the year.
Meanwhile Sam Reinhart has 36 points (8-28) for nearly a point-per-game average. Rasmus Ristolainen leads the team’s defense in scoring, with 24 points, but Rasmus Dahlin (20 points) is just behind him.
Whether you look at it from a team perspective or individual point of view, the Sabres are vastly better this season. They’ve scored 108 goals and allowed 104. They’re 18.6% on the power play - significantly better than last season - and 83.6% on the penalty kill, also better than this point last season.
Last Season (2017-18): 9-20-6, 30th in NHL
At this point last season, Evander Kane was the Sabres’ leading scorer, with 33 points (15-18). Eichel had 32 points, meaning he’s accrued roughly 33% more points this season to date than at this point last season. Reinhart has more than tripled his points from this point last season, and Ristolainen is up there, too. Ryan O’Reilly was also near the top of the Sabres’ stat lines with 23 points (9-14).
On a team level, the Sabres had scored only 76 goals and allowed 117. They were going 11.9% on the power play and 81.5% on the penalty kill.
2016-17 Season: 12-13-8, 27th in NHL
With Jack Eichel missing two-thirds of the games so far during the 2016-17 season at this point, it was Ristolainen who led the Sabres in scoring, with 23 points. Kyle Okposo had a team-high nine goals and was second on the team with 22 points. Reinhart had accrued 19 points, while O’Reilly had 18. Eichel, meanwhile, had eight points (5-3) in 12 games.
The Sabres had scored 70 goals at this point, and allowed 86. They were 22.3% on the power play - better than the season prior - and 74.3% on the penalty kill.
2015-16 Season: 14-16-4, 26th in NHL
To no surprise, O’Reilly led the Sabres in points on this day in 2015. He had 29 points (12-17) in 34 games. Ristolainen, constantly improving his offensive production, had 24 points - a total he’s matched so far this season. Eichel had nine goals and seven assists for 16 points, while Reinhart was one shy of him.
The Sabres had scored 78 goals and allowed 86, putting them in a negative goal differential but not terrible. They were 20.9% on the power play and 77.4% successful on the penalty kill.
What Happens Next
Of course, what happens in the remainder of the season can make a huge difference as to the team’s final standings and playoff positions - and whatever may or may not happen beyond that.
To finish off, a quick look at how the Sabres of seasons past were at this point in the season and how they finished the season.
There’s still a lot of time left in the NHL’s 2018-19 season, but the Sabres are at a good point right now - far better than they have been in years past - which should put them in a good position going into the rest of the season.