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Sabres Struggle Against Weaker Teams

I was looking in the right sidebar at the Sabres upcoming schedule and the prospect of gaining some points on the top teams in the conference.  Than it hit me that I couldn't remember the last time they beat a team with a losing record.  It was in fact the St. Louis Blues back on November 12 and in fairness the only other team they played (that had a losing record) was the NY Islanders and they lost 4-2 last Saturday.

It made start thinking about previous losses to Columbus, Tampa Bay and Atlanta.  This team does in fact play to the level of their competition.  The numbers don't lie and this team seems to play their best hockey against the better teams in the league.  Nine of the teams 11 wins have come against teams that have a winning a record with a 9-5-0 record against teams that are ahead of them in the standings. 

Sabres vs. Eastern Conference

Eastern Record Sabres vs. last game next game
Boston Bruins 16-4-4 2-2-0 Nov. 26 W 3-2 Jan. 3 @ Boston
NY Rangers 17-7-2 1-0-0 Oct. 13 W 3-1 Jan. 9 @ Buffalo
Washington Capitals 13-8-3 1-0-0 Nov. 1 W 5-0 Dec. 26 @ Washington
Pittsburgh Penguins 14-6-3 1-1-0 Nov. 28 W 4-3 Dec. 8 @ Pittsburgh
Montreal Canadiens 13-6-4 1-1-0 Nov. 29 L 2-3 Dec. 20 @ Montreal
Philadelphia Flyers 11-7-5 0-1-0 Nov. 21 L 0-3 Feb. 19 @ Philadelphia
New Jersey Devils 12-8-2 1-0-0 Nov. 3 W 2-0 Dec. 13 @ New Jersey
Carolina Hurricanes 12-10-2 0-0-0 DNP Jan. 17 @ Buffalo
Buffalo Sabres 11-9-3 ----- ----- -----
Toronto Maple Leafs 8-9-6 0-0-0 DNP Dec. 12 @ Buffalo
NY Islanders 10-12-2 1-1-0 Nov. 22 L 2-4 Dec. 27 @ Buffalo
Ottawa Senators 8-10-4 0-1-0 Oct. 27 L 2-5 Jan. 6 @ Buffalo
Atlanta Thrashers 8-11-3 0-0-2 Nov. 7 L 4-5OT Mar. 14 @ Buffalo
Florida Panthers 8-11-3 0-0-0 DNP Dec. 4 @ Florida
Tampa Bay Lightning 6-10-07 0-1-0 Oct. 30 L 2-5 Dec. 6 @ Tampa Bay


Western Conference

Western Record vs. Sabres Last Game Next Game
San Jose Sharks 20-3-1 0-0-0 DNP Feb. 13 @ Buffalo
Detroit Red Wings 15-4-4 0-0-0 DNP Jan. 10 @ Detroit
Vancouver Canucks 14-8-2 1-0-0 Oct. 17 W 5-2 -----
Minnesota Wild 14-7-1 1-0-0 Oct. 23 W 4-3 OT -----
Calgary Flames 14-9-1 0-0-0 DNP Jan. 28 @ Calgary
Anaheim Ducks 13-8-3 0-0-0 DNP Feb. 2 @ Anaheim
Chicago Blackhawks 10-6-6 0-0-0 DNP Jan. 14 @ Chicago
Nashville Predators 11-10-2 0-0-0 DNP Dec. 1 @ Buffalo
L.A. Kings 10-9-3 0-0-0 DNP Dec. 19 @ Buffalo
Columbus Blue Jackets 10-10-3 0-1-0 Nov. 14 L 1-6 -----
Edmonton Oilers 10-10-2 0-0-0 DNP Jan. 27 @ Edmonton
Colorado Avalanche 11-12-0 0-0-1 Oct. 25 L 1-2 SO -----
Phoenix Coyotes 10-11-2 0-0-0 DNP Jan. 31 @ Phoenix
St. Louis Blues 9-10-2 1-0-0 Nov. 12 W 4-3 -----
Dallas Stars 7-11-4 0-0-0 DNP Jan. 15 @ Dallas

Italics= current Playoff team

So is this a good thing or a bad thing?  Should we be happy that the Sabres play well against the leagues best teams or should we be concerned that they play so poorly against the leagues worst teams.  In the next week or so we may get our answer.  The Sabres play against many of the lower tier teams in the league over the next couple of weeks.


Next 5 Games

Nashville Mon 12/01 7:00 PM EST
@ Florida Thu 12/04 7:30 PM EST
@ Tampa Bay Sat 12/06 7:30 PM EST
@ Pittsburgh Mon 12/08 7:30 PM EST
Tampa Bay Wed 12/10 7:00 PM EST


Not Playing the System

Is it just a coincidence that the Sabres apparently struggle against the leagues weaker teams?  I don't think it is.  This is a team of young talented players that like to showcase their offensive ability.  After the Sabres lose a game it's like a broken record listening to Lindy Ruff, Ryan Miller and Jason Pominville talking about the system.  Too many giveaways, too many defensive breakdowns, we have to stay within our system.  If they spent less time trying to make the highlight video against the weaker teams we would probably see more wins.

So to answer the question about whether or not we should be worried...yeah we should be worried.  I'm not sure these guys will ever change.  I have defended this team because I believe in their talent but unfortunately they need to recognize the best way to win hockey games...not me.  This is a disturbing trend that needs to be changed immediately, they can't wait until the final month of the season like they did last year.  They aren't out of it in 9th place but the next couple of weeks could see this team slip even further unless they string together some wins against the teams they should beat. 


Shootout 2-2
Overtime 1-1
1-goal game (Reg.) 3-1
2-goal game 2-2
3+ goal game 3-6


The above chart shows how bad this team is when they lose.  The perfect example of how they avoid playing the system.  People always say that good teams win close games and the Sabres do that..unfortunately they lose big way too often.  Buffalo has lost a total of nine games in regulation this season and six of them have been by three or more goals.  It's not just the good teams beating Buffalo by three or more it's the weaker teams as well.

It's obvious that every team will score more than they allow when they win but the Sabres have a glaring difference between wins and losses.  In their 11 wins this season the Sabres have allowed only 18 goals (yeah only 18 goals in 11 games).  In their losses they have allowed five goals or more six times and a total of 49 goals in just 12 games.

Home and Away

A quick glance at the NHL standings shows nothing out of the ordinary regarding the Sabres home and away records.  They are 7-5-2 at home and 4-4-1 on the road.  The numbers get even more disturbing when you break down who they are losing to at home.  I mentioned the Sabres are 9-5-0 against teams with a winning record and they are 2-4-3 against teams that are behind them in the standings.  Here is a look at where the losses are coming from...

Home Away
Teams Above Buffalo in Standings 6-1-0 3-4-0
Teams Below Buffalo in Standings 1-4-1 1-0-2

The only glaring spot in the above chart is the record against weaker teams at the HSBC Arena. If that number was reversed (like it should be) we would be talking a bout a team that is 14-6-3 and had 31 points, enough to be tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference. Once again this is because of playing within the system. We all get sick and tired of hearing about the system but it appears that the system is what is ailing the Buffalo Sabres.