Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE
Buffalo's abysmal performance in faceoffs isn't the sole reason why they've lost three straight, but it certainly hasn't' helped.
There have been plenty of problems with the Buffalo Sabres over the past three games that have contributed to their recent three game losing streak, but one stands out as particularly egregious among all 30 NHL teams:
The Buffalo Sabres rank dead last in the NHL in faceoff percentage, and it's so bad that they're even not within sniffing range of 29th place.
The Sabres have won just 40.1% of their draws, and sit in 30th place in that category, an incredible 5.8% behind the 29th place team! And it's not just their young, inexperienced guys that are falling off the pace.
Their three leading centermen in terms of faceoffs taken are all currently below 40% on draws - Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson are right around 39%, but the veteran Jochen Hecht is sitting at an abominable 31%. Steve Ott is chugging along just fine at 48.3%, while the only positive surprise for the Sabres is rookie Mikhail Grigorenko who is winning faceoffs at a 47% rate as an 18 year old. It's sad to say that the Sabres can't afford to send this kid back to Quebec - not for his offensive skills, but because he's the Sabres second-best faceoff man.
However, it's Hodgson and Ennis' numbers that are most concerning. These guys were pegged as centers #1 and #2 this season, and to have guys getting that much ice time sitting below 40% in the circle is simply unacceptable for a team with playoff aspirations. Lindy Ruff has talked about certain players on his roster whose strength is puck possession - Jochen Hecht and Ville Leino, to name a few, but those skills don't mean diddly squat if you can't get the puck in the first place.
While it's not the sole reason why the Sabres are mired in losing hockey, they'll have an incredibly difficult road to the playoffs if they continue to lag this far behind the rest of the NHL.