Another two weeks have gone by and the downward trend has continued for the Buffalo Sabres. They have not only fallen below where they were at the beginning of the ten game win streak, but have also hit their worst empirical point projection this season.
Buffalo is now outside looking in. And although this is where many thought they would be, the winning streak bumped that expectations bar into playoff range. If the team wants to hit those expectations, they are quickly running out of time.
The Sabres bounced back in the scoring department a bit during this bi-weekly stretch, averaging 3.33 goals per game compared to just 1.8 during the previous stretch. However, allowing an average of 4 goals against per game (their highest bi-weekly number this season), cost them. Only three of an available ten points were picked up.
What’s interesting about the sharp increase in goals against per game is that is was not concurrent with an equally sharp increase in shots against. In fact, Buffalo averaged just 27 shots against per game in this bi-weekly period, their lowest in a bi-weekly period this season. This fact, for the time being, turns the spotlight away from the (secondary) scoring issues and on the goalies.
It was clear that Carter Hutton would be playing the starting role for at least a season or so as Linus Ullmark developed into his position, but that transition may be happening sooner than expected. Here’s a look at the two goalies performance so far throughout the season:
There are a few flags in this table that suggest Ullmark should be trending toward the starting roll, and it’s apparent that that is exactly the case as his percentage of games started has climbed each month thus far. It wouldn’t surprise me to see more of a 50/50 split for the remainder of a season. A competition for who’s between the pipes could be a driving factor that this team needs in the second half.
It’s been a tough recent stretch for the goalies, but an even more abysmal stretch for the special times. The Sabres power play posted a 5.6% success rate during this bi-weekly stretch, and paired that with a not-so-nice 69.2% penalty kill rate.
The model that has predicted the Sabres points totals for the season has been much more stable than their empirical point projection, but even that prediction is starting to slip dangerously low if playoffs are the end goal:
PK Pct: 82.2%
Starting Goalie in Top Ten SVP: Yes [T-10th] (Using a 25+ games started filter to proxy for starters)
Percent of Games Scoring First: 52.1%
Shooting Percentage: 8.81%
Starting Goalie Games Started Percentage: 62.5%
Corsi For Percentage: 49.14%
Prediction: 91 points.
We’re at the All-Star break and now’s the perfect time for this team to see if they can figure themselves out and make a serious push for the playoffs. As I’ve been saying the last couple weeks, I’m just happy I get to be invested in hockey games this late in the season again. Hopefully that fact holds true for a few more months.