Buffalo - November 25, 2014 - The Buffalo Sabres are on a winning-streak.
I bet that’s a phrase no one expected to hear in 2014, huh? Well that’s where we are thanks to three consecutive wins by the blue and gold as they head into a Wednesday night home tilt with the middling Winnipeg Jets.
While a three-game winning-streak might sound great to any other team in the NHL right now, it has some Sabres fans going into full-blown panic mode.
Why? Well there’s this little thing the Sabres are doing called #Tank2015 where they’re hoping to be the worst team in the NHL in hopes of landing potential megastars Jack Eichel or Connor McDavid with one of the top picks in the 2015 NHL Draft. It’s a step many feel the Sabres need to continue their rebuild effort the right way.
I’m here to tell you that this three-game winning-streak is nothing to sweat for fans behind the tank effort and that there should be absolutely no fear of the Sabres making any kind of extended impact on the win column this season.
Check it: in their winning-streak, they’ve scored a dozen goals, positively unheard of for them this season. For good reason: with 1.62 goals per game, they are not only dead last, they are one of just two teams (Winnipeg is the other) to average less than 2.10 goals per game. Their offense is only slightly less awful because of this torrid stretch and it’s still pretty damn awful. Considering they allow twice as many goals per game, it’s safe to say that’s not a trend that is just going to magically go away after 21 games.
Digging even deeper into the offensive woes, until their winning-streak started, there really were only three Sabres accounting for the scoring in Drew Stafford, Zemgus Girgensons and Tyler Ennis. Torrey Mitchell has gotten a bit hot (his line with Brian Gionta and Brian Flynn has been strong of late), but there’s no way that will last given Mitchell’s career-best in goals is 10 way back in his rookie year of 2007/08. Every team has little bursts where everything goes in and the Sabres are getting just that right now. When the bounces stop going their way and the over-achievers stop over-achieving, the offense will again predominantly fall on those three.
And to go one more layer into this: during the three-game winning-streak, the Sabres have been outshot in that stretch 109-74 and that’s heavily buoyed by a 34 shot effort against the Leafs. They beat the Sharks 4-1 despite registering only 14 shots on net. That won’t happen again in all likelihood. The Sabres are the worst in the NHL at both generating and prevent shots, taking 23.2 per game and allowing 36.9 per game. That is a trend that didn’t change during this streak and won’t change as the year goes. This is the reason they give up double the amount of goals that they score.
To make matters even worse (or better, depending on which side of the fence you’re on), their special teams are abysmal. The power play seems to only operate when Stafford can score, clicking at a hilariously-bad 6.7% (only Winnipeg at 8.4% and Minnesota at 9.2% are scoring at under a 10% rate). The penalty kill has fallen off hard, 24th in the NHL at 77.2%.
To put this simply: the Sabres are still bad. Very, very bad. They can’t kill penalties, can’t score on the power play, can’t generate shots and can’t prevent them. Those are all pretty important things to fail at and usually lead you to the top of the NHL Draft. Really, the only true bright spots have been the goaltending and the stellar play of young bluelines Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov.
So worry not, tankateers. The hunt for McDavid is still very much on.
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