We’re in mid-November and Buffalo remains on pace for a solid finish. For the second week in a row, their empirical point projection dropped by only one point, bringing them to 96 projected points.
This success was once again driven by an increase in scoring output. After 2.2 goals per game in the first bi-weekly period, the Sabres scored 3.2 per game during the next period and 3.7 per game during this most recent period, bringing their overall goals per game average to 3.06.
As far as the hot topic of secondary scoring goes, the Sabres added six goals by non top-five forwards as well as two goals by defensemen in six games. This brought their total scoring output (52) to be just over the NHL average of 51. The top-five scorers overall at this point are: Jeff Skinner (12[!!]), Jason Pominville (8), Conor Sheary (6), Jack Eichel (4), and Kyle Okposo (4).
A big reason for this improvement in scoring is shots in general, as for the second bi-weekly period in a row the Sabres have increased their average shots per game fairly significantly.
These things considered, it’s been another good couple of weeks for the Sabres. They’re still in the playoff conversation, which in mid-November is unheard of over the last couple of years.
All the good play has led to another exciting difference between this and last year’s team- their streaking ability. Take a look at the distribution of streaks between this season and last through three bi-weekly period:
Biggest thing to note here is the shift in losing streaks, from two-game streaks dominating last season to one-game streaks being more prominent this season, showing the Sabres are more capable of bouncing back.
Not only are they more capable of bouncing back from game to game, but also from within the game itself. Through the entirety of last season, the Sabres had a winning percentage of 11.1% in games in which their opponent scored first. This season, so far, that percentage has increased to 25%. That’s still a bit behind the NHL average of 34% so far this season, but is definitely a notable improvement.
One last item of note this bi-weekly period is that the Sabres did great on the PK- allowing only two goals in 21 short handed efforts, but saw their power play struggle - scoring only two goals in 18 attempts.
I once again plugged the Sabres current stats into the model I created to predict NHL point totals (discussed here) to see where the fancy stats have them ending up. The following stats were plugged into the model:
PK Pct: 81.5%
Starting Goalie in Top Ten svp: No
Percent of Games Scoring First: 52.94%
Shooting Percentage: 9.27%
Starting Goalie Games Started Percentage: 72.2%
Corsi For Percentage: 50.59%
With the most up to date bi-weekly stats this week, the model puts the Sabres at 94 points for the season, only under their empirical projection by two points, and up eight points from the last projection. Even the fancy stats are starting to have faith!
However, we’ll see what happens as the stats become even more credible, and as Buffalo faces their toughest challenge yet to close out November.