Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel broke a five-game point drought last night, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime against the Calgary Flames. It was Eichel’s 16th goal of the season, and 51st point - in 44 games played - and, to many, it was critical that Eichel finally got back on the scoresheet.
So just how important is Jack Eichel’s offense to the Sabres this season?
Of the 137 goals the Sabres have scored this season, Eichel has been involved in 51 - meaning he’s been in on about 37 percent of the team’s goals, whether by scoring them himself or by assisting. And of course, the numbers don’t count goals where Eichel may have set up a play that led to a goal, but wasn’t credited with an assist.
Eichel is not the biggest goal-scorer on the Sabres right now - and that’s okay! Jeff Skinner has stepped in and stepped up and has 30 goals on the season, and Eichel is contributing in many ways - not just in goals.
Through his 35 assists this season, Eichel has begun to showcase himself as not just a goalscorer, but a playmaker. Of those assists, 22 have been primary, while 13 are secondary. This helps showcase that he doesn’t carry a me-first attitude and that he’s willing to put in the work to get his team on the board, regardless of where his name winds up on the scoresheet.
Of Eichel’s 22 primary assists, half have come on goals by Skinner. Others have come on goals by Jason Pominville, Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Dahlin and Conor Sheary. His secondary assists read about the same, with seven of those coming on goals by Skinner.
His recent five-game pointless streak (which includes the Islanders game on Dec. 31 where he played under three minutes of ice time, so can that really count?) is the longest of the season for Eichel. It also matched the longest pointless streaks of his young NHL career; he also went five games without a point from December 16-23, 2016, December 7-15, 2015 and February 21 - March 1, 2016.
Otherwise, he hasn’t gone more than two games in a row without registering at least a point this season.
The Sabres are more than halfway through the season at this point. In the 44 games that Eichel has played this season, he’s contributed a point or more in 28 games. And when he has at least a point, it really does help the Sabres win: Buffalo is 18-5-5 when Eichel scores at least a point this season.
When Eichel registers 2+ points in a game this season, the Sabres are 13-3-4.
It’s not just Eichel, of course, but the fact that he’s played so well with guys like Skinner and Reinhart this season. They make him better, and he makes them better. He makes the team better as a whole and really is crucial to its success. As Eichel said after last night’s win - it’s a team effort, and that’s just what the Sabres need.