Do the Sabres play O'Reilly too much?

March 7, 2017
Ryan O’Reilly has been hot lately picking up points in four straight games. He’s scored three goals and three assists for six points, but he doesn’t think he’s been playing all that well and it could go back to the way he is used.
Dan Bylsma has his highest paid player out there for all important situations including important faceoffs. I think the way Bylsma uses him has him so far rundown, he can’t perform the way he’s capable of.
O’Reilly has been here for two seasons and he has led all forwards in the NHL in ice time. Last season he was number one with 21:44 and this season he is number one at 21:43.
To give you a comparison, Connor McDavid is 5th in ice time while Jonathan Toews is 10th and Sidney Crosby is 16th. Jack Eichel is 13th overall with 20:04.
Dan Bylsma says he’s trying to reduce O’Reilly’s ice time, but it doesn’t really work, “There’s situations that we try to trim minutes off of Ryan and use him for a faceoff and get him off the ice on a penalty kill is one of them. We get in situations were we need a big draw in defensive situations and those are the situations where you see his minutes will remain high.”
Since O’Reilly has arrived, my thought and some of his teammates thoughts are that the increased minutes affect his game. Bylsma said, “That’s a consideration and something you look for. I think the last two games playing back-to-back nights, it’s more of factor and concern than it is over the long stretch of it, but I think there’s a sweet spot for Ryan’s game with the number of minutes he plays.”
“As he said, he’s never going to come off the ice if we put him out there and that was the case in the last couple of games. He got a few more minutes than maybe where his sweet spot is, but we want him and need him in those situations and he’s going out there.”
In those two games O’Reilly played 25:32 and 23:08.
If you ask the player, of course he’s going to play and O’Reilly is no different, “I’m never going to say no to going out on the ice. If it was up to me, I’d play the full 60 and I think anyone here in the room would want to play as much as they can.”
“I have no problem with it, but sometimes it can be tough and you have to manage the shifts a bit better, but I Iove going on the ice and I think I can be effective every time I touch it.”
All that is good, but it doesn’t explain the gaps that we see in O’Reilly’s play. In the two games in Denver and Glendale, O’Reilly was the team’s worst center, not their best and he was held pointless. O’Reilly said he agrees that improvement is needed, “I still think there’s a lot more I can do to be effective in my game.”
O’Reilly is on a pace for 64 points this season Last year he was on a pace for 69 points.  O’Reilly said he can do better than 70 points, “I want to be up in that point range and even more, but each game calls for different things. Sometimes I have to shoot the puck a little bit more and sometimes I have to see what opens up for me.”
The Sabres beat the Flyers in Buffalo 4-1, but blew a 3-0 lead in Philadelphia and lost 4-3 in a shootout.
Jack Eichel has a career high 10 game point streak where he’s scored three goals and 10 assists for 13 points.
Robin Lehner is back in goal after a stellar 65 minute performance against Tampa Bay. Lehner stopped 31 of 32 shots, but in the shootout he was 0-for-2.
Philadelphia had lost four of five games, but since then has beaten Colorado and Florida before losing to Washington in overtime.  
Steve Mason has played three straight games giving up just three goals. He had a 39 save win against the Panthers.
Brayden Schenn has seven points in seven games, but Claude Giroux has no goals in 12 games.
Join Schopp and the Bulldog for the pregame live from 716 when they’ll be joined by Dan Bylsma, Ryan O’Reilly and Sam Reinhart.