In 2015 Ryan O’Reilly was the Buffalo Sabres best player. Sunday against the Oilers, O’Reilly proved he still is.
The 25-year-old forward recorded the most points of his career (four: two goals and two assists) in a convincing 6-2 win over Edmonton. While the stats are surely impressive, O’Reilly’s play away from the puck and ability to create chances is what makes him such a special player.
“We needed a good response from our last game,” O’Reilly told reporters after Sunday’s win. “I thought we were much more consistent tonight and you know, we just supported each other better and we made plays. That’s the hockey we have to establish right away. It’s a big road trip and it’s nice to start off like that.”
O’Reilly got his first point of the night on a secondary assist from Kyle Okposo’s first goal as a Sabre. Edmonton turned the puck over in their own end and O’Reilly was able to slide the puck to Sam Reinhart, who made a perfect saucer pass to Kyle Okposo across the net.
While on the score sheet O’Reilly will get the secondary assist – he applied pressure when the Oilers were looking to breakout of their zone, leading to the turnover. The red arrow below shows O’Reilly’s entry into the zone. If he doesn’t attack the puck, Oscar Klefbom, the Oilers defender, would have been able to clear the zone. Instead, the Sabres got on the board early.
Minutes later, O’Reilly scored his first goal of the season on a tape to tape pass from Kyle Okposo, who was surely returning the favor. O’Reilly’s quick release allowed him to capitalize on wide-open net. If O’Reilly would have waited a half second longer, Oiler defenseman Darnell Nurse would have been able to prevent the shot.
All night the Sabres looked crisp when passing the puck. That wasn’t the case during their first game against Montreal Thursday night.
“That’s what we have to do. We have to be confident in each other and make the right plays at the right time and you know, the puck has to be the fastest moving thing on the ice.”
O’Reilly's second goal of the night came off a crazy shot from center ice early in the second period. He joked after the game that he practices that play often – but that he’ll take them how he can get them.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 17, 2016
O’Reilly’s final point came on a nice drop pass to Matt Moulson on the power-play in the third period.
Ryan O'Reilly celebrated his 500th NHL game by scoring the GWG and setting a career high for points in a game (2-2—4). pic.twitter.com/aL5jewJkY7
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) October 17, 2016
If the Sabres are going to be able to overcome long-term injuries with Evander Kane and Jack Eichel players like Ryan O’Reilly are going to need to step things up. If Sunday is any indication of what’s to come – than Sabres fans will be thrilled with O’Reilly. Remember, somebody traded this guy.
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