After a good start to the month of November where the Buffalo Sabres won four out five games, the club went winless in their next six games. Buffalo lost four of these contests in regulation time. The club also lost to the San Jose Sharks in overtime and the St. Louis Blues in a shootout.
The Sabres snapped their recent winless streak on Friday night by defeating the Carolina Hurricanes by a 4-1 score. Buffalo dug itself into a hole during their six game winless streak. With a 9-12-2 record through 23 games, as of Friday evening the Sabres sit six points behind the New York Islanders for the final wild card position.
Buffalo needs to string some wins together to close the gap and get back into the playoff race before it is too late. Here is a look back at the Sabres’ recent winless streak and what went right in their victory against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Sabres Struggle Against Western Conference
While mother nature was kind to the city of Buffalo in mid-November, the hockey schedule wasn’t so nice as the Sabres were matched up against the top Western Conference teams. Buffalo played the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues twice during their winless streak. The Sabres also played the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators. As of Friday evening, each of these four teams rank as one of the top three teams in their respective divisions and the clubs have a combined record of 57-26-7 so far this season.
Buffalo was unable to secure a victory against these clubs but they held their own against them. During Buffalo’s six game winless streak, four games were decided by a single goal or in the shootout. Buffalo was shutout in Dallas by a 3-0 score at the hands of the Stars. Meanwhile, the Sabres lost 3-1 on home ice against Dallas but the outcome of this game hinged on a coach’s challenge. Aside from these two losses, Buffalo’s recent winless streak was largely a string of close games where the Sabres were competitive but ultimately came up short.
[See Also: Coaches Challenge Not on Sabres Side by Michael Straw]
A decline in goal scoring also contributed to Buffalo’s winless streak. The Sabres scored an average of 1.17 goals per game during their winless streak. In the 16 games before this stretch, Buffalo scored an average of 2.38 goals per game. This decline in goals can be explained by the strong defensive systems and quality goaltending of their opponents. Dallas, St. Louis, Nashville and San Jose currently rank in the top half of the league in fewest goals allowed.
What Went Right Against the Carolina Hurricanes
An important reason why the Sabres snapped their losing streak against the Hurricanes is because of contributions on offense from the team’s veterans. From an offensive production standpoint, Buffalo’s veteran players have left much more to be desired so far this season. However, the Sabres received three of their four goals against the Hurricanes from their veterans with scoring from David Legwand, Brian Gionta, and Josh Gorges – the other goal was scored by Sabres’ rookie Jack Eichel.
Scoring the opening goal in the game against Carolina was another important factor in the victory. Buffalo managed just three shots in the first period but they were still able to score the first goal of this contest. The Sabres had a habit of falling behind during their six game winless streak. Aside from David Legwand’s goal that gave Buffalo the lead in their November 23rd tilt with the St. Louis Blues, the Sabres fell behind in each of the other five games during their winless streak.
Buffalo was badly outshot by Carolina in the first period but by establishing the lead, the Sabres were able to dictate the pace of the game and they improved as the game unfolded. Buffalo played a physical game, blocked a lot of shots, and never trailed the Hurricanes in this contest. The Sabres were rewarded with an important win that snapped their winless streak. The club will look to build upon this winning effort on Saturday night when they face off against the Nashville Predators to close out the month of November.
[See Also: Top 5 Buffalo Sabres Power Play Goals]
Tim joined The Hockey Writers in July 2013. He began his tenure with THW by covering the Minnesota Wild and he now writes on the Buffalo Sabres. Tim completed his undergraduate and graduate work at the University at Buffalo. In addition, he is a published historian and a Baltimore Orioles Contributing Writer for LegendsOnDeck.com. Tim’s work for THW has been featured on sites such as Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @TOHockeyTHW