Victor Olofsson got his 20th goal of the season for the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night. It's a big milestone for any rookie, as the Swedish winger is one of only three first-year players in the NHL to get there this season.
And the goal that opened the scoring in Buffalo's 3-2 shootout win over Washington came at a good time for Olofsson, snapping an eight-game skid.
"It was a good feeling, especially after not scoring," Olofsson, 24, said after practice Wednesday in KeyBank Center. "It's been a while. I was happy to get a goal again, but obviously 20 is a good figure to get over. I thought like I could at least get 20. I missed a few games, too, or could be even higher, too, but there's still games left. Hopefully I can get a few more here."
"The jump from 19 to 20 goals is a big one, psychologically, in the National Hockey League. To be a 20-goal scorer is a big step," coach Ralph Krueger said. "That could’ve been a daunting wall to climb over. I think that he just has such a positive mindset. I never saw any weakness in his persona or the way he interacted with his teammates or the way he was practicing or playing."
The goal tied Olofsson for second in the NHL among rookies with Dallas' Denis Gurianov. Chicago's Dominik Kubalik is the leader at 29. Olofsson is fourth among rookies in points (42) and fifth in assists (22). Montreal's Nick Suzuki, an opponent Thursday night at Bell Centre, is fifth in points (41) and fourth in assists (28).
Olofsson's pace of 24 goals would leave him tied with captain Jack Eichel (2015-16) for the seventh-highest total by a rookie in franchise history.
— Buffalo Hockey moments (@SabresPlays) March 9, 2020
With Jeff Skinner now playing on the top line with Eichel and Sam Reinhart, Olofsson has moved down a spot for the last two games to a line with Marcus Johansson and Dominik Kahun. The trio has formed some quick chemistry. Johansson fed Olofsson for his goal and Kahun, who has four points in his six games with the team, has added an immediate spark.
"We grew up playing the same type of hockey and we all like to play with the puck and hold on to it and make plays, kind of a European style a little bit," Johansson said. "Sometimes there’s something that clicks. So far, it’s been good. We’ve created a lot of chances and scored a couple goals. So hopefully we can keep that going."
"We've been clicking, going really well," Olofsson said. "We created a lot these couple of games and we're just going to get better here."
Olofsson had a nine-game drought earlier in the year that ran from mid-October into November. And Krueger said it took him a couple games to get back up to speed after he missed a month with a high ankle sprain. For his part, Olofsson has been undaunted by the bumps in his season and said he learned from his earlier drought.
"It happens every year. You're not going to score every game and sometimes it can get in your head," he said. "But the older I get, the more experience I get, I can remain calm in those situations. I don't get stressed out. Keep shooting, work hard and the goals will come."
"The best part is he’s such a good kid, one of the better guys I’ve played with," Johansson said. "He puts in the work and he comes to the rink and he’s smiling. He’s just overall a really good guy. I think it makes it even more fun to see the success he’s having. His skill set on the ice and his mindset, I think the sky’s the limit for him."