Sabres Projected Lines:
Victor Olofsson – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
Jeff Skinner – Evan Rodrigues – Conor Sheary
Jimmy Vesey – Casey Mittelstadt – Curtis Lazar
Zemgus Girgensons – Johan Larsson – Kyle Okposo
Jake McCabe – Rasmus Ristolainen
Rasmus Dahlin – Brandon Montour
Marco Scandella – Henri Jokiharju
Hurricanes Projected Lines:
Andrei Svechnikov – Sebastian Aho – Teuvo Teravainen
Ryan Dzingel – Jordan Staal – Warren Foegele
Nino Neiderreiter – Lucas Wallmark – Martin Necas
Brock McGinn – Eetu Luostarinen – Brian Gibbons
Jacob Slavin – Dougie Hamilton
Joel Edmundson – Brett Pesce
Jake Gardiner – Hayden Fleury
3 Things to Watch
Don’t let Carolina’s record fool you
Entering tonight’s game, the Hurricanes have posted a 10-7-1 record totaling 21 points. It’s a respectable start, they’re just a point ahead of Buffalo, but have played one more game than the Sabres.
While tonight’s two teams may be close in the standings, they are both trending in different directions. I pulled a few charts @ChartingHockey posted this morning showing Carolina is a very good team in many aspects.
First, Carolina has sole possession of the “Good” area when compared to the rest of the NHL in Team Shot Rates. Yes, you can make the argument that the second best team in the league points wise (St. Louis) is in the dull section and Carolina is still doing well, but that leads me to the next chart.
These next two charts shows where Carolina is dominating the NHL statistically so far. The xGF/60 is expected goals for over 60 minutes of play for those who are newer to the analytics scene (it’s ok, so am I).
That’s calculated by how likely a shot is to go in, so basically think the more high danger scoring chances, the better xGF. This applies for the defensive end as well, the less high danger scoring chances, the lower xGA.
Anyways, as you can see in the following two charts, Carolina is the best in the NHL at xGF/xGA differential. Then look at Buffalo, they’re towards the bottom of the league in that differential.
So, why does Carolina’s record mirror Buffalo’s?
Goaltending. It’s been their Achillies heel for years. While Petr Mrazek and James Reimer are decent goalies, that’s about as best Carolina will get. Mrazek has a .907 Sv% and Reimer is at .901.
Now I won’t sit here and act like I’ve watched Carolina play much/at all this season, but with those stats and the analytics that show Carolina is a good team, all signs point to the guys between the pipes. We’ll see if this trend holds true tonight.
Vesey – Mittelstadt – Lazar
At this point, this is your fourth line in my eyes. We know what the Sabres will get with Vesey, which is pretty much nothing (2 assists in 14 games) and I don’t expect Curtis Lazar, who hasn’t produced a point in the NHL since April 7, 2018, to chip in much either.
So it looks like Mittelstadt is stuck with two well below average wingers again. This is what happened last season too. We’re all aware that Mittelstadt isn’t in a position to drive the offense of a line yet. The kid needs help from his wingers and that’s pretty much the opposite of what his two wingers tonight will bring.
This isn’t as much of a knock on Lazar as it is Vesey. Can this line produce or at least have a positive impact on the game tonight? That’s what I’ll be looking for.
Sam Reinhart is heating up a bit with 3 goals and 4 points in the two games in Sweden. There are only two teams Reinhart hasn’t scored against. One team is the Calgary Flames. That’s fair, he’s only played against the Flames 8 times since they’re in the Pacific division. The other team? You guessed it, the Carolina Hurricanes.
Since we established one line probably won’t produce (Mittelstadt’s line), Girgensons – Larsson – Okposo has only produced a combined 11 points all season and haven’t had a single point since Okposo got an assist on October 24, this game is going to come down to the Sabres top two lines.
Or will it? Marcus Johansson is now out for the next three games and Rodrigues has been shaky at best when stepping in. In reality, all eyes are on Olofsson – Eichel – Reinhart tonight for offense. What better time for Reinhart to pot his first goal against the Hurricanes than when his team is really going to need him.
Photo courtesy of WIVB