The Buffalo Sabres have lost 13 in a row, and that’s not 13 in a row with an overtime or shootout loss sprinkled in. No, it’s 13 regulation losses in a row. And aside from a shot at a generational talent, there’s no reason to be hopeful for the rest of Buffalo's season.
Earlier in this season, there were a number of teams that were vastly underperforming, almost by a head scratching amount. The Edmonton Oilers, for instance, were dreadful, but there was and still have been signs of positive growth. The Columbus Blue Jackets were derailed by injuries. At times other teams struggled, but advanced stats were there to say a turnaround was in the future.
All the while the Buffalo Sabres were… actually all right?
Yes, the Sabres were better than many had expected, which isn’t to say good, but simply that they weren’t absolutely miserable right out of the gate. Their current 13-game slide, however, has corrected that. The Sabres are the worst team in the league, and not even underlying numbers have much positive to say about the state of the team.
At a time like this when a team has lost 13 straight games, you would expect one of two things: either their shooting percentage is absolutely abysmal or their goaltending is so lousy that it’s frightening to watch. For the Sabres, it has been a combination of both.
According to War On Ice, since Dec. 29, the Sabres PDO, a combination of shooting percentage and save percentage, has been well below 100, but has levelled off for the season. Heading into last night’s game, which the Sabres lost to Edmonton 3-2, the Sabres had a 5-on-5 PDO of 95.8. That comes from a 5-on-5 shooting percentage of 5.9 and save percentage of 89.9, both nearly league worst totals.
But for the season, the Sabres PDO is 99.1, which is to say that they’re performing about where they should be expected to perform over the course of the year. The winless streak isn't what was expected, but the Sabres losing as much as they have up to this point is.
The 13-game losing streak has been partially due to bad puck luck, but all it has served to do is level out how unbelievably lucky the team was during a stretch when they won eight of 11 outings. During that stretch, from Nov. 22 to Dec. 15, the Sabres were shooting 9.1 percent and had a 93.4 SP at 5-on-5 for a PDO of 102.5.
The Sabres are now about as close to 100, the average PDO, as they have been all season. And that it has taken this slide to get there isn’t good news for Sabres fans. The city, the team, and its fans all knew it would be a trying year, but this 13-game slump can’t be the way anyone pictured things going.
There’s enough season left that the Sabres will inevitably win a few games in a row, break this slump, and show some signs of growth. But, sadly, the team is not more than the sum of its parts. Rather, the team is exactly the sum of its parts.
That said, rest easy, Sabres faithful, because there is always McDavid and Eichel.