Zemgus Girgensons doesn’t assess his game solely by points. As the Sabres winger said Monday, a player can have a four-point night yet still be terrible. He looks at the all-around performance before assessing a grade.
That said, it feels mighty good to be on the score sheet lately.
Girgensons’ offensively challenged season is finally on an upswing.
He heads into Tuesday’s home game against Florida with three points in three outings. It doesn’t sound like much, but it has allowed him to nearly double his yearlong output.
“It’s a better feeling when you win, but I’m glad that those have been coming a little bit,” Girgensons said Monday in First Niagara Center.
Girgensons is among the many Sabres who have experienced a drastic dip in scoring this season.
Before joining center Jack Eichel and captain Brian Gionta on Wednesday in Washington, Girgensons had just two goals and three assists in 32 games. He’s put up a goal and two assists since the line was formed.
“He’s cashed in and his line has cashed in,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “The line’s been quite good. They’ve got a number of opportunities. Jack’s been really good with his speed and creating, and both those guys have been benefactors of that play.”
Eichel, Girgensons and Gionta have combined for four goals and 10 points in the last three games while continually asserting their presence. The trio has put 27 shots on net and attempted 15 more.
“It’s been really good playing with Gussy and Gio,” Eichel said. “They play a real simple game, but hockey’s a simple game, so that’s usually when you’re successful. They both work really hard. They make it pretty easy for me, and I just try to use my speed and creativity and create for our line. I think we’ve done a great job building chemistry together and producing.
“You can keep carrying this momentum into our game against Florida. They’re a hot team, so we’re going to need to be good.”
As Eichel said, there’s not much that’s flashy about his wingers. Gionta and Girgensons are essentially straight-line forecheckers who put an emphasis on sound positional play.
It means Eichel knows where they’ll be. The knowledge has paid off in chances and points, though not in wins. Buffalo heads into the game with four straight losses, while the Panthers have won nine in a row.
“We move the puck, support each other, moving north skating and pass it when we have to,” Girgensons said. “Just playing the right way, not making mistakes that you know would hurt the team. That’s one of the most important things.”
Bylsma has been praising Girgensons’ defensive game for some time, but there hasn’t been any production to match.
It’s a surprise. Before suffering a season-ending injury last February, Girgensons was on pace for a 20-goal, 40-point year. This season, he’s on pace for six goals and 17 points.
Part of it is adjusting to a new role. Girgensons was the go-to guy for former coach Ted Nolan, skating 19:04 per game last season with more than two minutes each on the power play and penalty kill.
This season, Girgensons’ average ice time is 15:39 with 52 seconds per game coming on the power play.
One thing that has remained the same is the losing.
“It’s frustrating,” Girgensons said, “but you’ve just got to think if you keep playing like that there’s no way each team’s going to get away with a win.”
The Sabres still see plenty of bright spots in their play despite the losing streak. They’ve taken 136 shots during their four-game skid but have scored just six times.
“We’ve been all over teams the last four games,” Girgensons said. “We’ve just been a little bit unlucky. Not just unlucky, but the mistakes we make are usually hurtful mistakes. It’s not small mistakes.
“As long as we limit the big mistakes where it’s an easy goal for anyone in the league, we’ll be good.”