All losses look the same in the standings. But this one, albeit the Buffalo Sabres’ 18th straight, stings a little more than the others. In this one, the Sabres had a real, honest-to-goodness chance at breaking into the win column for the first time since the beginning of mankind.
It was almost too good to be true. They played a sound game through 40 minutes, outplaying and outshooting the Philadelphia Flyers. They were up three goals after two periods – a pretty safe lead for most teams. But then again, the Sabres are far from most teams.
Sabres’ Epic Collapse
The Blue and Gold rarely have a lead, so it’s no wonder they don’t know how to protect it. In fact, it was the Sabres’ first lead since Feb. 23 when they defeated the New Jersey Devils, 4-1 (also their last win). The lead wasn’t safe, even for a Flyers team that got shellacked by the New York Rangers 9-0 just 12 days ago.
It was a wild night, with three even-strength goals, including a tally by Cody Eakin. Though it was technically his second goal of the season and first in 18 games, it was his first against an actual goaltender. His other goal was an empty netter.
The collapse felt like witnessing a car crash in slow motion. One simple period… 20 minutes was all that stood between the hometown Sabres and a victory. But one good period is all it takes for a team to break the spirit of this fragile group that continues to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
In the third period, the Flyers dominated play and the Sabres collapsed, allowing three goals, including the game-tying marker in the final two minutes of play. In the extra frame, they promptly lost in the first minute. It was shocking, yet almost predictable at the same time. And it put the team alongside some truly dreadful company in the NHL history books.
Historic Losing Streak
The Sabres are 0-15-3 since Feb. 23, tying the record for the longest stretch of games without a win since the NHL established the shootout (ties were eliminated prior to the 2005-06 season).
Brandon Montour didn’t mince words after the game. “It’s embarrassing. This whole stretch is embarrassing. Any team in the NHL, that’s a win. That’s brutal.”
Montour, who is likely going to be dealt before the deadline, was beside himself. “You go through a stretch like this, you blame systems, you blame coaches … In the end, you’ve got to be an NHL player.”
The loss puts the Sabres at 0-13-2 for March. They haven’t had a regulation win in March since 2018. That’s an incomprehensible 3-28-4 record. How bad is this team? Even the Buffalo Bills have more victories (15) than the Sabres (14) since Feb. 1, 2020. Yikes.
Adding Insult to Injury
The losing streak, which cost Ralph Krueger his job, has also taken its share of players via injury. The latest… rookie Dylan Cozens, who was drilled into the boards in the first period by Flyers defenseman Philippe Myers and did not return.
With Eric Staal moved to the Montreal Canadiens and Jack Eichel still out, Casey Mittelstadt played center. While that’s not exactly good news, it was a step up from Jean-Sebastien Dea who had first-line honors against the Boston Bruins last weekend.
The Sabres are now 6-23-5, dead last in the NHL with 17 points. They’ll be watching the playoffs for the 10th straight season, matching the league record. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it could.
The same two teams play again on Wednesday. If the Sabres lose, they’ll hold sole possession of the longest losing streak in league history. And of course, it’s a nationally televised game on NBCSN.
Jeff has been covering the NHL for over a decade for various sites. He’s been with The Hockey Writers as a lead Sabres writer three years, while also writing a satire column called “Off the Crossbar.”