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Sabres Grades: Skinner Leads Way With Hat Trick



Jeff Skinner Buffalo Sabres grades

Monday night was a good answer to a disappointing loss on Saturday, as the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Seattle Kraken handily, 6-2. Jeff Skinner was outstanding, playing nearly the entire time in the opponent’s end and potting three goals to top the Sabres Grades. The rest of the team followed suit, with no one grading below a “C-“, and half the team posting above-average performances.

Must Read: Sabres Chase Daccord Early; Win 6-2 in Seattle

If you missed the introduction to the 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


Jeff Skinner

Grade: A

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

It’s good to see Jeff Skinner atop this edition of the Sabres Grades. It’s been way too long. The goals put his production score off the charts, but the lack of chances against impressed. Skinner posted over a 95% expected goal share at even strength per Evolving-Hockey, which means that the shot quality in favor of Skinner and his linemates was massively better than the shot quality they gave up.

Fancy statistics aside, the veteran forward was noticeably buzzing. The hop hasn’t been in Skinner’s step for most of the second half of the season, so it’s good to see he still has it in him. If he can get going consistently on offense, it may be the extra push the Sabres need to vie for a playoff bid.

JJ Peterka

Grade: A-

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

JJ Peterka was the subject of a benching from the coaching staff less than a week ago. Monday, he was rewarded for his play. Head coach Don Granato swapped Peterka from a line with Skinner and Krebs to rejoin his most common centerman this season in Dylan Cozens. The move paid off, as Peterka’s speed and offensive drive resulted in Owen Power’s insurance goal shortly after.

It’s a positive reflection of the coaching staff for correctly assessing the situation, but also a reflection of Peterka and the mindset he brings to the Sabres. He’s become a sparkplug for the team, coming up with big plays in transition when Buffalo needs it most. It’s a well-earned “A-” for the second-year player.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

Grade: A-

What would the “studs” column be without Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen lately? The Finnish netminder is continually the rock in the crease that the team can pivot off of. He’s been the second-best goaltender in the NHL since the turn of the new year, and Monday was no different. His 1.74 goals saved above expected, per Evolving-Hockey, kept the Sabres in a comfortable lead when things could’ve gotten dicey.

Tuesday might be Devon Levi’s turn to give Luukkonen some rest, so it will be interesting to see how the Sabres respond. Luukkonen has bailed Buffalo out of so many situations, so there will likely have to be another gear against one of the NHL’s best teams – the Vancouver Canucks.


Eric Robinson

Grade: C-

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

It’s not that Eric Robinson had a bad game, rather, the big forward didn’t generate the offense that the rest of the team did. Still, you can see the defensive grade of “A-“, which is all you can ask of the fourth liner. If players were graded in this system relative to expectation, Robinson did his job. He didn’t concede any goals and limited shots against, though he wasn’t relied on as much as the rest of the forward group.

Keeping the Kraken’s fourth line off the scoreboard is particularly impressive, as Seattle is known for rolling four, semi-even lines.

Zemgus Girgensons

Grade: C-

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

Zemgus Girgensons is proof that you can not be at your best, but a couple of good shifts can change the outcome of a game. Girgensons had the primary assist on Tage Thompson’s goal in the first minute. A defender was all over him, but Zemgus still touch-passed the puck back to a surging Thompson to spring him for the clean wrister.

Later in the period, Girgensons tied up his man in the defensive zone to spring Thompson in transition. Girgensons headed straight down the ice and drove the middle to open the passing lane from Thompson to Alex Tuch, who beat Joey Daccord from the slot.

It wasn’t a great game in Seattle for Girgensons throughout most of it, but when you understand your role and fit on a scoring line it’s easier to impact the game on one or two good plays.

Connor Clifton

Grade: C-

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

Connor Clifton is probably a fluky powerplay goal-against away from an average or better game. Matty Beniers found a puck that hit Clifton and generously bounced off the post to the goalmouth, allowing for an easy tap-in. It’s hard to fault Clifton for blocking the shot, as he was doing his job as a penalty-killing defenseman.

Someone has to be in the “duds” column though, and the event – as kooky as it was – did produce a negative result for the Sabres. Besides that, Clifton did well moving the puck up the ice and into the forwards’ possession. His defensive metrics, like most of the team’s, took a hit in the third period when defending a big lead.

Jeff SkinnerF88%A
Jj PeterkaF83%A-
Ukko-Pekka LuukkonenG79%A-
Bowen ByramD64%B
Dylan CozensF63%B
Owen PowerD56%B-
Tage ThompsonF56%B-
Rasmus DahlinD53%C+
Jordan GreenwayF51%C+
Tyson JostF51%C+
Jacob BrysonD45%C
Zach BensonF45%C
Peyton KrebsF42%C
Henri JokiharjuD41%C
Connor CliftonD38%C-
Victor OlofssonF38%C-
Alex TuchF37%C-
Zemgus GirgensonsF33%C-
Eric RobinsonF31%C-