Time for a turnaround

December 01, 2018 - 12:08 pm

The Buffalo Sabres just finished out the month of November a staggering 11-3-1, and oddly enough, it’s time to turn things around.

The Sabres' record looks good. Their odds to make the playoffs look very good too, but there are indicators that if things don’t start to change, they could squander all that they’ve built to this point.

Sean Tierney of chartinghockey.com has tons of wonderful visuals that can illustrate just what a hockey team is made of… and this morning I retweeted his chart that shows a five-game rolling average of expected goal differential.

This is not a good way to win hockey games. pic.twitter.com/CUml8J5o0i

— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) December 1, 2018

Simply put, this indicates how many goals you should expect to score, and how many you should expect to give up, based on how you’ve been playing. I’m no analytics guru, but this stuff does matter to me. I, like many of you, value it and feel like I have a fairly good handle on what some of the entry-level stuff spells out.

Let’s take a peak at some of Buffalo’s rankings from naturalstattrick.com:

  • Shot share at 5-on-5 - 21st
  • Shot share 5-on-5 within one goal - 24th
  • High Danger Chances For - 28th
  • High Danger Chance % - 28th
  • High Danger Save % - 4th

This team is living on the edge… The Sabres give up an awful lot of high danger chances, and they don’t get too many of their own.

11-3-1 is a fun month, and it’s done wonders for the team both in the standings and in the hearts and minds of fans that have been dying for some good times. With that in mind... I can't help but stay true to something I would say about any other team doing what the Sabres have done. I’m a big time proponent of the 3-2-1 point system, which rewards team the most for regulation wins.

Spun another way, the Sabres played 15 games in November, and came away the winners in regulation… four times. Yes, there was the New York Rangers game that they lost, but they appeared to be the better team. There were a couple where things were pretty even like San Jose and Detroit along the way too. Again, we're looking a little big picture here.

Regulation wins are the true testament to how good you are. 3-on-3 overtime and shootouts can get you to the playoffs, but once you’re there… that path to victory is toast. 

You want to see how you stack up with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning?

The Leafs had nine regulation wins in November. Tampa had eight.

All that confidence, and momentum, and learning to win, and swagger, and never-give-up stuff is all well and good…They’re in good shape. Heck, great shape. Belief can be a powerful thing and I’m happy to hear that the Sabres have some of that on tap these days.

The day the streak started, I wrote a piece at WGR550.com to point out just how average the Sabres were at that point. Since then? Their playoff chances are strong and healthy, but their vital signs… not so much.

After a span of 15 games in 30 days of November, they’ll get a bit of a break with 13 games in December (29 days from the Nashville game to the end of the month). Perhaps a somewhat lighter load, and some softer opponents mixed in can bring the Sabres back up a bit in how they play. We're looking for wins, of course, but we should also be looking for a better share of the shots, and a better quality of shot, while also shoring things up in front of the goaltenders.  

If not, those standings we keep pointing too, might not look as good when this team hits 2019.

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