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Sabres Grades: Luukkonen Tops Again; Girgensons Steps Up

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Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen Buffalo Sabres grades

To no one’s surprise, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s 3-0 shutout over the Chicago Blackhawks has him atop the Sabres Grades from Thursday’s game. It’s Luukkonen’s second straight shutout, and an extension of a great run in the new year by the towering goalie.

Must Read: Luukkonen Notches Back-to-Back Shutouts

It was a good all-around performance by the team, with 11 of the 19 players who touched the ice in a Buffalo Sabres jersey averaging a “B” grade. They took it to a lesser opponent, sure, but the Sabres are in no position to take games lightly. With the Tampa Bay Lightning remaining seven points ahead in the standings, Buffalo’s going to have to continue their strong run to make a push at the playoffs.

If you missed last week’s introduction to the new grading system, we’re assigning letter grades to each Buffalo player based on game performance. The letter grades are assigned based on statistical computation, taking into account the following factors:

  • Production
  • Quality of offense
  • Quality of defense
  • Volume of offense
  • Volume of defense
  • Powerplay performance
  • Penalty kill performance
  • Penalties drawn and taken
  • Role
  • Minutes played
GradeLower LimitUpper Limit
A+92%100%
A85%92%
A-77%85%
B+69%77%
B62%69%
B-54%62%
C+46%54%
C38%46%
C-31%38%
D+23%31%
D15%23%
D-8%15%
F0%8%

Studs

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

Grade: A

Luukkonen was perfect yet again, except this time he only faced 19 shots. Don’t mistake less volume for an easy night, however, as he had to come up clutch on some key rush chances given up by the Sabres in transition.

The back-to-back shutouts have Luukkonen cemented to the top of the “Studs” column once again, but it will be interesting to see how far this confidence can bring him against more difficult competition. Regardless, he’s earned another opportunity Saturday, where he’ll face the likes of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Victor Hedman.

Previous Sabres Grades: Luukkonen Perfect Against Sharks Attack 

Zemgus Girgensons

Grade: A-

Production: B+
Offense: B-
Defense: C+
Special Teams: C+

Part of the allure of Girgensons’ performance Thursday was that he was asked to play an expanded role and delivered. Obviously, getting the first goal of the game was a big catalyst for the team. He also drew a penalty, was great on the penalty kill, and played the second-most even-strength minutes among Sabres forwards.

Rasmus Dahlin

Grade: B+

Production: B
Offense: A-
Defense: D+
Special Teams: B-

Dahlin is back in the top three performers for Buffalo for the second straight game. A powerplay goal, six shots, and two blocks is a very good stat line, but it’s the way he drove play into the Blackhawks end consistently that was the most impressive feat.

His defense grade took a hit from some quality rush chances against, but he was deep in Chicago’s zone often and still able to get back in time to force a quick decision in transition.

Duds

Eric Robinson

Grade: D+

Production: D
Offense: C+
Defense: B-
Special Teams: N/A

For Robinson, it was more of a lackluster performance than a poor one. He had a very good corsi-for percentage with over 63% of the shot attempts coming from Buffalo when he was on the ice. The issue was much more of a shot quality concern, with not much offensive quality created from those shot attempts.

It’s also of note that Robinson was used heavily on the penalty kill for the Columbus Blue Jackets throughout his career, but has yet to really be relied on in that role in Buffalo. If he wants to establish himself as a regular in the lineup, he’s going to have to contribute to special teams at some point.

Victor Olofsson

Grade: D+

Production: D
Offense: B-
Defense: C-
Special Teams: B+

The one area where Olofsson performed well Thursday is the area where he has been most noticeable throughout his career – on the powerplay. The Sabres powerplay only generated one goal, which came when Olofsson was not on the ice. However, the second unit also had some great opportunities that simply didn’t go in.

The question with Olofsson is always if the powerplay talent is enough to warrant a bottom-six role. Powerplay aside, he created very little offense. When Dylan Cozens and Jeff Skinner are ready to return to the lineup, there’s just no rationale for playing Olofsson at this point.

Kyle Okposo

Grade: C-

Production: D-
Offense: C
Defense: C+
Special Teams: B

Even when not called upon often, Okposo still finds a way to make his impact on the game. In this case, he played the third-fewest minutes on the team at even-strength, but performed admirably on special teams. His ability to contribute positively on both the powerplay and penalty kill kind of offsets a poor offensive performance like this one.

Sabres Grades

PlayerPositionPercentileGrade
Ukko-Pekka LuukkonenG90%A
Zemgus GirgensonsF77%A-
Rasmus DahlinD71%B+
Zach BensonF65%B
Jack QuinnF63%B
Jj PeterkaF60%B-
Henri JokiharjuD57%B-
Casey MittelstadtF54%B-
Erik JohnsonD53%C+
Owen PowerD52%C+
Ryan JohnsonD49%C+
Alex TuchF47%C+
Peyton KrebsF44%C
Tage ThompsonF43%C
Jordan GreenwayF37%C-
Connor CliftonD35%C-
Kyle OkposoF32%C-
Victor OlofssonF30%D+
Eric RobinsonF28%D+

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