Girgensons is happy to be part of a winning team

The Sabres veteran is having quietly having a productive season as a fourth line depth player

Brayton Wilson
November 20, 2018 - 11:14 am

Photo: Charles LeClaire - USA TODAY Sports

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It's hard to believe that Zemgus Girgensons is already one of the longest-tenured players on this Buffalo Sabres roster.

The 24-year-old is already suiting up for his sixth season with the Sabres, and is quietly having a decent season.

Throughout his career, Girgensons has been part of some pretty deplorable rosters where winning has not been much of a discussion in the locker room.

However, that is starting to change with this season already out to a hot start. Through the first 21 games of the season, the Sabres are 13-6-2 with 28 points in the standings, and currently sit as the fourth-ranked team in the entire National Hockey League. In addition, the Sabres are currently riding a six-game winning streak, which is the longest stretch of wins the team has seen since the 2009-10 season.

It is a feeling that Girgensons has been waiting for.

"It feels great. It's been [some time] without even having that many wins in a row," Girgensons said on Tuesday. "It's something that's fun now and it's exciting. It's a different vibe when you start feeling that.

"We are finding ways to win. We stick through it for a full-60 [minutes], and there's no give up in the team. It's definitely fun. I know we've struggled in past years, so I know all the downs. At this point and moment, you don't want to get too high emotionally with this win streak. You just have to keep going."

This season has not been a flashy one on the scoresheet for the native of Latvia as he has just one goal and five points in 20 games. To this point, Girgensons is on pace to score four goals and pick up 16 assists in 81 games, which would be his highest point total in a season since he scored 30 points (15+15) in the 2014-15 season.

However, Girgensons is not changing anything with his style of play, and it has been playing to his benefit. He has always been a grind it out type of player, who is willing to get his nose dirty and find different ways to make a play for his team. Girgensons has been finding more consistency in his overall game this season, and has found his niche on the fourth line as a suitable depth player playing alongside Johan Larsson and Patrik Berglund. 

When you look at the Berglund-Larsson-Girgensons line, it is a combination that has gotten a majority of its zone starts in the neutral zone or defensive zone. The trio has not combined for many points together offensively, but they have been very good at getting the puck into the offensive end, creating scoring chances and sustaining some good zone time. When you look at the advanced stats, all three players are in the top-eight percentage of shot attempts (Corsi) this season, with Girgensons being fifth overall at 52.50-percent.

This has given head coach Phil Housley some added confidence in that line combination, and he has been very pleased that they are finding ways to produce in a positive way.

"I think they're a tight group. They talk a lot after each shift, and they're just reliable," said Housley on Tuesday. "You've got three centermen, if you want to look at it that way. Even Zemgus can take draws, he's been really good. Their dependability and their reliability says a lot. They don't get a lot of offensive zone starts, they're starting mainly in the defensive zone, but they're doing the little things, the detailed things, and it's helping them as they moving forward. When they get in the offensive zone, they might not get the looks as other lines get, but they're certainly wearing down other teams' defenses and making them spend a lot of energy in that area."

"I think it has been good. We've been generating chances," Girgensons said of his line. "We wish [the puck] would go in a couple more times, but as long as we're getting those chances, the time will come.

"When you're getting multiple chances a game, it's a good sign. It shows that something is brewing. Hopefully we can get on the board tomorrow."

If the Sabres can come away with a win on Wednesday night over the Philadelphia Flyers at KeyBank Center, the Sabres will extend their winning streak to seven straight games. That would give the Sabres their longest winning streak since the 2006-07 season when the team started the year with 10 straight wins.

Girgensons knows that the crowd will be bringing it on Wednesday with the team playing in front of the national spotlight on NBCSN.

"I think it will be awesome. The fans are always great here, so I hope it will be a packed house here again."

The Sabres held a team meeting on Tuesday at KeyBank Center, followed by a team stretch and some players electing to skate afterwards.

Housley also provided an update on defenseman Marco Scandella, who left Monday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins after blocking a shot in the second period. He said that Scandella has a lower-body injury and will be a game-time decision for Wednesday night's game against the Flyers.

The Sabres will return to the ice on Wednesday for the morning skate at 10:30 a.m.

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