The Buffalo Sabres record of 14-30-3 ranks the club in a tie for last place with the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL standings. If we subtract Buffalo’s six shootout wins, the Sabres have just eight wins on the year. Buffalo’s record leaves a lot more to be desired but without the shootout victories things in Sabreland could be even worse.
Shootouts have been controversial since they were added during the 2005-2006 season. A major area of contention is the way points are awarded with the shootout. Teams who lose in a shootout still receive one point for the tie at the end of regulation time. This so-called ‘loser point’ awards teams that ultimately lose the game at the end of the shootout.
Meanwhile, teams who win the shootout receive two points. This is the same number of points awarded for a regulation win. Many have called for changes to how points are awarded with regards to the shootout. Despite these calls for reform the current shootout point system has endured.
The shootout has played a major role in the Sabres’ overall record accounting for six of the club’s fourteen wins this season. By comparison, the Edmonton Oilers are currently tied with the Sabres for last place in the NHL standings and they have a 2-3 shootout record. Shootout wins are inflating the Sabres’ overall record with more than forty percent of the Buffalo’s wins being attained this way.
[See Also: 3 Must See Buffalo Sabres Games in January 2015]
Buffalo Sabres’ 2014-2015 Shootout Appearances
Of Buffalo’s forty-seven games, seven games have been decided in the shootout and the Sabres have a 6-1 shootout record on the season. Jhonas Enroth has performed well in net for the Sabres’ in games that went to the shootout. While he has struggled in recent games, Enroth earned five of the club’s six shootout wins by allowing just one goal on twenty-one attempts.
Remember those three or four days when we were like, "Hey, Sabres, whaddaya doin' winning and not tanking and stuff?!" Good times…
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) January 19, 2015
The Sabres’ first shootout victory came in October against the Carolina Hurricanes and it was also the club’s first win of the season. The shootout went to eight rounds until Zemgus Girgensons netted the winning tally.
Buffalo finished the month of November with three shootout appearances where the club won two and lost one. The Sabres’ defeated the Detroit Red Wings and split shootout wins with the Montreal Canadiens. They would go on to win three shootouts in the month of December against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders.
Eleven Game Losing Streak
The Sabres currently find themselves on an eleven game losing slide. During this recent span, Buffalo has been outscored by their opponents forty-nine to sixteen. Buffalo has scored an abysmal average of 1.45 goals per game during this stretch which is below their season average of 1.77 goals per game. The Sabres currently are the only team in the NHL averaging less than two goals per game.
Sabres through 47 games on 1/18/2015: 31 pts. Sabres through 47 games on 1/18/2014: 33 pts.
— WGR 550 (@WGR550) January 19, 2015
Goal scoring clearly is a large issue for the Sabres especially during their recent losing skid. The club did amass a nice stretch of wins earlier in the season but the margin of victory in many of these contests was small. In fact, of the Sabres’ fourteen wins this season it has won twelve games by a margin of just one goal.
Buffalo has gotten away from their winning formula during their recent losing streak. With the way the roster is currently constructed, the Sabres need to play a tight defensive game and minimize their mistakes for a chance to win. Buffalo has surrendered seventeen goals in their last three games and will need a much better defensive effort to have a chance at ending their losing streak.
Buffalo can find success with it’s current roster when it puts forth a strong defensive effort. The Sabres have failed to do that in their recent eleven game losing streak and the club will need to improve upon this coming out of the All Star break.
The shootout has been one of the Sabres’ best statistical areas this season. The club has found little success in other statistical realms but the Sabres’ 6-1 record in the shootout is noteworthy. Only the Anaheim Ducks have more shootout wins than the Sabres with seven on the season. Buffalo’s six shootout wins are tied with the New York Islanders for second in the NHL.
The last time the Sabres found themselves in a shootout was their last win back on December 27th against the New York Islanders. Buffalo will try to right the ship in it’s next game against the Calgary Flames on January 27th. If the Sabres can manage a win it will be the club’s first victory in a month.
Shootouts have played a large role in augmenting the Sabres’ win total this season. Buffalo’s winning formula this season has centered on strong defensive efforts and a low margin of victory. The Sabres will need to find a way to play better defensively to minimize scoring by the opposition to earn a chance to win and break it’s current eleven game losing streak.
[See Also: Top Five Buffalo Sabres’ UFA Trade Bait]
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