The first two months of the NHL season are in the books. It’s been a decent season so far for the Sabres, including of course their recent 10-game winning streak. But just how much better are the Sabres doing this season than last season at this point?
Let’s take a look.
Through the first two months of the 2017-18 NHL season, the Sabres had played 25 games. Their record in that stretch was a measly 6-15-4, including a five-game losing streak to open the season. Buffalo was outscored 84-55 in that time, including being shut out twice to finish out the month of November.
The Sabres have played 27 games in the first two months of this season. But their record is almost unbelievably better than that of last season: 17-7-3.
In contrast, last season, the Sabres didn’t register their 17th win until February 13. This season, it came on November 27.
While the Sabres allowed 84 goals-against in the first two months of last season, that’s nearly how many goals they scored in the first two months of this season. Overall, they outscored their opponents 85-76, including one shutout.
Of the Sabres’ seven regulation losses this season, three came by a margin of two goals or fewer. Of the 15 regulation losses they suffered in the opening two months last season, nine came by a margin of two goals or fewer.
Things just seem to be working this season for the Sabres.
Jack Eichel, now the team’s captain, already has 32 points, including 27 assists. Last season at this point, Eichel had 19 points, including 11 assists.
He’s one of the Sabres who’s seen the most offensive growth, but others have too - including Jason Pominville (18 points this season compared to 14 last season), Sam Reinhart (21 points this season to 10 last season) and Rasmus Ristolainen (15 points this season to seven last season.)
Of course, the addition of Jeff Skinner can’t be overlooked. Skinner has 28 points this season for the Sabres, including 20 goals. Last season at this point, Skinner was still on the Hurricanes, where he’d accrued 16 points in the opening 23 games of the season.
The addition of Carter Hutton has certainly helped, too. Hutton is 12-7-1 this season with a .917 save percentage and 2.63 GAA. At this point last season, Hutton was the backup in St. Louis; he’d only played in six games, but had gone 4-1-0 in that stretch with a .946 save percentage and 1.59 GAA.
And of course — the standings.
On December 1, 2017, the Sabres were dead-last in the NHL with 16 points, tied with the Arizona Coyotes. They’ve been cumulatively outshot 780-773, had allowed 14 power-play goals against and were 81.1% on the penalty kill. Their 55 goals-for were also the fewest in the NHL.
On December 1, 2018, the Sabres are tied for first in the NHL with 37 points, tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning. They’ve still been outshot (893-854) and have allowed 16 power-play goals against, but they’ve also scored 17 power-play goals and have gone 80.2% on the penalty kill. They’re among the top-10 in the league in goals-for and middle of the road in goals-against.
Last season, the Sabres didn’t hit the 37-point mark until January 26. This season, they hit it on November 30.
It’s undeniable that the Sabres are having a vastly better season than last season. What remains to be seen is how they handle the challenges of the months ahead, but with a quarter of the season already in the books, they’re in solid footing and if they can stay on a good track, playoffs certainly aren’t out of the question.