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Why Can’t the Sabres Win on the Road?

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Buffalo having a dreadful time at road games lately

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Sabres are struggling in many ways this season, particularly as of late. One specific area where the team is having trouble, though, is on the road. Away from KeyBank Center, the Sabres are 11-17-4 this season - meaning overall, they’ve won 34.375% of their road games this season.

For comparison’s sake, the Tampa Bay Lightning have won 73% of their road games and are the best team in the league; the Calgary Flames have won 60% on the road, and the Boston Bruins - who are third overall in the NHL - have won 48% of their games away from TD Garden this season.

As it stands, only three teams have a worse record on the road this season than the Sabres; the Los Angeles Kings (32%), New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators (both 25.8%).

But lately, the numbers are even worse for the Sabres.

The Sabres have lost six straight road games; their last victory away from home came back on January 29th in a 5-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Of their last 19 road games, Buffalo has won only three, a stat pointed out by NBCSN’s national broadcast of Tuesday night’s loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

These struggles weren’t always there. Stretching back further, the Sabres had at one point won five straight road games from November 8 - 24, 2018. But after that, the collapse began, and the Sabres lost four straight road games. It just hasn’t gotten better since then.

Of their 32 road games so far this season, the Sabres have faced an Eastern Conference opponent 19 times. Of those 19 games, 14 were losses for Buffalo. Those are huge points that the Sabres missed out on, even if they did manage to grab a point in a few of them via overtime or shootout loss.

Against fellow Atlantic Division foes on the road, the Sabres have won 25% of games.

Breaking down the Sabres’ road woes even further:

  • 52% of Buffalo’s road losses have come by just a one-goal differential (including 2 OT losses and 2 shootout losses).
  • 28.5% of Buffalo’s road losses have come by a 3+ goal differential.
  • 72% of Buffalo’s road victories have come by a one-goal differential (including 3 OT wins and 2 shootout wins.)

The Sabres’ hope of making the playoffs is quickly dwindling, but either way, the team needs to finish out the season on a strong note, particularly on the road.

Buffalo has 19 games remaining, of which nine are on the road. Of those 19, a whopping seven are against Eastern Conference opponents, and four are against divisional rivals.

So what can the Sabres do to finish off the road portion of the regular season on a high note? Well, first of all - win. Find a way. Six straight road losses isn’t good and these are big points. Even if the Sabres’ playoff hopes officially die, the team can still play spoiler to some other conference and division opponents.

Those one-goal differentials haven’t helped the Sabres, either - whether they win or lose by one, it’s crushing. They need to play a sharp game and not let teams rally back, which has been one problem. Another, however, is letting the opponent get too far ahead and trying to claw their way back, often with a late goal. That’s not a good way to win hockey games and it’s not sustainable to expect to claw back and win games like that.

At this point, it’d just be nice to see the Sabres break their road losing streak and get the win away from KeyBank Center. Again, they have nine chances to do that in the last month and a half of the season. While I’d like to say that’s certainly going to happen, with the way the team’s been performing lately, it’s not a given.

They’ll get their next chance on Saturday night as they visit Toronto to face the Maple Leafs once again, for the final time on the road this season.