Simply watching Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel would tell you that they've put together strong rookie seasons for the Buffalo Sabres. They've developed chemistry as linemates and they made their presence felt in Buffalo's 3-1 win Friday night over the Ottawa Senators at First Niagara Center.
Reinhart recorded his 20th goal of the season to open the scoring and he and Eichel each picked up an assist on Buffalo's third goal of the game, which gave the Sabres some breathing room.
In the bigger picture, what they've been able to do is extremely impressive.
Eichel already has 22 goals on the season so Reinhart's marker made the tandem the third pair of Sabres rookies to each score 20 goals in the same season.
They join Danny Gare (31) and Peter McNab (22) in 1974-75 and Gilbert Perreault (38) and Steve Atkinson (20) in 1970-71.
The Sabres haven' had two or more rookies reach the 35-point plateau since Ray Sheppard (65), Pierre Turgeon (42) and Calle Johnasson (42) each did so in 1987-88. Eichel and Reinhart are now part of that company as well because with his goal, Reinhart picked up his 35th point of the season. Eichel has 49 points this year.
"It's exciting to come in and produce right away, but it says a lot of the sport I've had," Reinhart said. "I've been able to play with some pretty good players throughout the year. It says a lot to our group as well."
Nicolas Deslauriers and Zach Bogosian also scored for the Sabres.
Reinhart has had a knack for being in the right place at the right time and his goal was evidence of that.
The 20-year-old wing opened the scoring on the power play 2:07 into the contest. A point shot from Rasmus Ristolainen deflected off the shin of Zemgus Girgensons and to Reinhart, who was parked to Anderson's right. Reinhart's first shot was stopped by Anderson, but he buried his second effort.
"We came out and really wanted to turn around our starts," Reinhart said. "As of late, they haven't been the best and we've gotten better as the game's gone on, but to get that first on early and then for D-Lo to bury that next one right after to get us on the right page and follow it up, it was a good effort tonight."
Buffalo's rookie forwards collected the assists on Bogosian's goal, which gave the Sabres a 3-1 advantage 9:53 into the second. In a 4-on-4 situation, Eichel slickly skated from the blue line up through the middle of the ice and hit Reinhart with a pass to the left of the net.
Anderson reached over with his stick to block a cross-crease pass, but Reinhart found a way to move the puck over anyways. He found Bogosian costing down the right side and Bogosian was able to gather the pass and redirect it into an open net.
"If I can't score that one, I don't know. It wouldn't be too good," Bogosian said, smiling. "It was a great play by Sam seeing me backdoor."
Bogosian has 11 points (5+6) in his last 13 games and 8 points (4+4) in his last 8 home games.
Buffalo could've gone up another goal if Zemgus Girgensons had not hit the post on an Eichel feed about three minutes later.
When it comes to Eichel and Reinhart, not only has their play on the ice awed their teammates, but their mature personalities have also made an impression.
"They're a lot of fun and they bring a lot of energy to the room. Two totally dynamics as far as personalities, but you're just impressed at how much success they've had in their rookie seasons," Bogosian said. "They're going to be a huge part of our team moving forward. We're lucky to have both of them."
'AN ELITE PLAYER MAKING AN ELITE PLAY'
The game was tightly contested for most of the night and Ottawa did respond quickly to Reinhart's opening tally, tying the game 3:26 later.
Alex Chiasson picked up a rebound off a Mike Hoffman shot at the top of the crease and put it home for his sixth of the year.
However, Buffalo regained the lead 2:27 after that when Ryan O'Reilly chased down a dump in by Evander Kane in the right wing corner. With Anderson not quite set after trying to play the puck behind the net, O'Reilly threw the puck into the slot where Deslauriers, all alone in front, deflected it in to put Buffalo ahead 2-1.
"When you play with Ryan, you know he's going to make that play," Deslauriers said. "I just went one knee down. I didn't have to do much. It just hit my blade and went in."
O'Reilly has assists in back-to-back games after missing 11 games with a foot injury.
"I don't know if he saw him, I don't know where he saw him, but D-Lo goes hard to the net and makes an awesome play, puts it on his tape," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's an elite player making an elite play and it's a big goal for us."
With his sixth of the season, Deslauriers set a new career-high in goals.
"I told him he needs to score more because he's the best celebrator on our team," Bylsma joked.
Ottawa almost got within one 3:53 into the third when Scott Gomez deflected a shot from Bobby Ryan into the top corner while on the power play. However, after review, it was determined that the puck went in off Gomez's glove and the goal was waved off.
STICKING UP FOR ONE ANOTHER
With 7:03 left, Bogosian came to Reinhart's aid when Reinhart was clipped high in open ice in the neutral zone by Dion Phaneuf. On the play, Phaneuf received a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head.
"I was always taught to stick up for your teammates. My first few years, it was the same thing – older guys sticking up for myself," Bogosian said. "That's the way it's got to be. It's a brotherhood in here. The situation that we're in, it's not ideal, but we're trying to build something here.
"We're trying to move forward and set a standard that we want to play a certain way and be a certain way as a team. That's a part of it."
The Sabres may have liked to have seen Phaneuf charged with more than what he received.
"I haven't seen a replay, but I'm only disappointed that they called a two-minute [penalty] and not more," Bylsma said. "From what I've heard, it got the head."
CALM AND COOL IN THE CREASE
Chad Johnson, taking the reins in goal while Robin Lehner continues to recover from an ankle injury that caused him to miss three months of the season, made 32 saves. Johnson has won each of his last five starts.
"It's important for the group, too and it's nice to know that when I'm in net, we're playing well, we're getting wins and we're getting results," Johnson said. "Winning's fun. You can play the game and lose and it's not satisfying. Being able to play well and get results, it's fun. It's fun to be a part of this."
Johnson improved to 17-15-3 on the year and his solid play is no surprise to his coach.
"His strength is his demeanor and his presence in the net and his calmness in the net," Bylsma said. "He was every bit of that tonight for us."
His counterpart, Craig Anderson, stopped 31 shots.
NEXT GAME: SATURDAY NIGHT
The Sabres left right after the game for Toronto where they'll play the Maple Leafs on Saturday at Air Canada Centre. Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.