Happy New Year!
The Winter Classic thrust the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers into the limelight on New Year’s Day.
The second lines for both squads did much of the damage.
JT Miller – Kevin Hayes – Michael Grabner got it done for the Rangers, including the overtime winner from Miller.
We pretty well know what we are getting from these three. After an explosive start to last season they settled in to modest paces. Miller is quietly on pace for a 57-point season after putting up 56 a year ago. He probably has another gear with more power play time, but that PP time is not likely forthcoming.
Hayes and Grabner, meanwhile, are going to give you somewhere around 40-points. Hayes’ case is interesting because he is skating the most minutes of his career (17:08 per game), but has seen his PP time fall off to just 35 seconds per game. They are using him entirely in a defensive role, which suits the counterattacking style that has been successful for this line, but has ultimately clipped his offense a bit.
Chris Kreider’s absence hasn’t helped Hayes gain any traction in PP time either. Instead we have seen Jimmy Vesey receive more consistent second unit time.
The Rangers’ PP has flattened significantly after a hot start. Since Mike Zibanejad first went down with a concussion the Rangers have clicked on just 12.8% of their chances. Their overall average is at 19.0%, but if this slide continues they’ll be in the bottom-third before long. This is a big reason that Zibanejad is scoreless in six games since returning to the lineup.
This hasn’t only affected Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich has been bounced down to the third line and is struggling with only nine points in his last 20 games. I’ve dumped Buchnevich in all my leagues opting for hotter options like Patrick Marleau, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kyle Connor.
I suspect we’ll see some more runs of hot play from Buchnevich, but if you have the moves and talent available on the waiver wire there’s no reason not to swap him out.
For Buffalo, the second line with Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo have started to come around. Kane is relatively new on this line and has been productive all year so there isn’t much to discuss. O’Reilly has nine points in the past 11 ga