After a rough two week stretch in which the Buffalo Sabres only generated four points in six games, they bounced back with a solid stretch of nine points in seven games— allowing them to maintain their pace of 104 points for the season.
The success during this mini stretch was driven by solid special teams— a 20.8% success rate on the power play and a 95.5% success rate on the PK, compared to 7.1% and 73.7% during the previous bi-weekly stretch.
Another driver of the success was the shooting. The Sabres posted 34 shots per game during the bi-weekly period compared to 28.3 during the previous stretch. Definitely a bounce back couple of weeks for the team.
Speaking of shooting, let’s bring our attention to Jack Eichel’s shooting specifically. Twitter was buzzing with hot takes regarding Eichel’s inability to put the puck in the net. Apparently his solid point pace wasn’t enough because it was comprised of mostly assists. While Eichel did start off with a low shooting percentage, the statistician in me had no worries due to one simple term— regression toward the mean. The shots were there, the goals would come. Here’s a look at Eichel’s by game moving average shooting percentage this season plotted against his overall career shooting percentage (starting at 10 games to avoid initial volatility):
Eichel definitely got quiet in the goal column. But as a career 9.8% shooter, it was perfectly reasonable to expect to goals to come— and they did. He’s seen his season shooting percentage increase from 4.3% to 8.9% within the last ten games alone.
Despite Eichel’s shooting success, there are still plenty of Sabres that need to figure out their own scoring woes. The offensive secondary scoring for the Sabres is lagging behind the NHL average, which is bringing their overall scoring down to the NHL average level, despite their place in the overall standings.
Despite those struggles, it’s still awesome to see how much progress has been made compared to last season.
Overall, it’s been a bounce back couple of weeks. The Sabres managed to maintain an overall points pace of over 100 despite their rough stretch prior to this bi-weekly period. Here’s the latest model results:
PK Pct: 83.6%
Starting Goalie in Top Ten svp: Yes (Using a 20+ games started filter to proxy for starters)
Percent of Games Scoring First: 56.76%
Shooting Percentage: 9.12%
Starting Goalie Games Started Percentage: 64.86%
Corsi For Percentage: 48.07%
Prediction: 95 points. Still a bit below their current pace of 104 (which may be considered to be inflated from the win streak).
With the Boston Bruins starting to get some players back from injuries, it’s going to be a real interesting next couple of weeks. Relevant December hockey is fun, isn’t it?
Best wishes to Rick Jeanneret for speedy recover. Enjoy some well deserved time off!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all! See you all in 2019!