Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
That the Sabres got shellacked through the first 18 games of the 2014-15 season shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Buffalo faced powerhouses from both conferences featuring games against LA, Chicago, Anaheim (twice,) St. Louis, Pittsburgh (twice) and Boston. Also thrown into the mix were playoff teams from last year--Minnesota, Columbus, Detroit and Montreal. There was also perennial western power San Jose' but the Sabres have their number for some reason.
With the team smack dab in the middle of a rebuild and 14 of their first 18 games against strong opponents, it's no wonder Buffalo went 3-13-2 during that stretch.
Leave it to a rematch vs. the Leafs to stop the bleeding and get the team on a bit of a roll. Back in October Buffalo travelled to Toronto and got smoked 4-0, but in the rematch on November 15, they returned the favor with a 6-2 drubbing of the Leafs on Hockey Night In Canada. It would begin a run where the Sabres would win 5 of 6 and end the month with a respectable 6-6-1 record.
That 5-1-0 finish to November was a bit of an alignment of the stars as the team began to score while their goaltenders, especially Jhonas Enroth, stood on their heads. The Sabres came into November with a minus-24 goal differential and after going 1-6-1 through the first eight games of the month it turned into an abysmal minus-43. It would seem as if they bottomed out giving up six goals in three consecutive games while scoring only five.
Then came the stretch to finish the month.
During those six games Buffalo scored 18 goals or roughly 40% of their goal total through 24 games played. Even though they've managed to up their goals/game total from an anemic 1.09 to 1.67, they're still near their historically low pace of 1.51 goals/game they scored last season.
Another key component in the Sabres late November stretch was goaltending. Just how hot was Jhonas Enroth? He faced 173 shots in his five games played (which includes a two-period relief appearance) and surrendered only eight goals for a .953 save percentage. During that span he gave up three goals once (at Montreal, Nov. 29) and two goals once (vs. Winnipeg, Nov. 26.)
Taken as a whole the month of November showed a marked improvement in the wins, points and points-percentage column. Although Buffalo is still 8th in the division they've moved ahead of Columbus and Carolina (each with a game in hand) in the conference while they're two points ahead of Edmonton overall.
As we get deeper into the season, things will fall into place as statistical anomalies become less predominant with every game played. Injuries will test a team's depth while scheduling will help balance everything out.
One thing to remember, nobody has ever won made the playoffs in November. Nor has any team lost their place on the totem pole because of an unusually strong six-game run to end a month.
Buffalo Sabres Team Stats:
--October: 2 (29th)...(NHL Leader--ANA, 9)
--November: 8 (27th)...(NYI, 17)
--October: 5 (29th)...(ANA, 18)
--November: 18 (27th)...(NYI, 34)
--October: .227 (29th)...(MTL, .773)
--November: .375 (27th)...(PIT, .739)
Atlantic Division Standing
Eastern Conference Standing
--November: 14th (PIT)
--November: -33...(PIT, +26)
--October: 1.09 (30th)...(PIT, 4.00)
--November: 1.67 (30th)...(TBL, 3.50)
--October: 21.2 (30th)...(CHI, 38.1)
--November: 22.3 (30th)...(CHI, 36.1)
--October: 3.27 (21st)...(ANA, 1.83)
--November: 3.12 (27th)...(NSH, 1.96)
--October: 36.7 (30th)...(MIN, 23.2)
--November: 36.5 (30th)...(MIN, 25.8)
--October: 2.9% (29th)...(PIT, 39.5)
--November: 7.2 (30th)...(PIT, 31.6)
--October: 85.4% (9th)...(DET, 94.1)
--November: 77.0 (25th)...(CHI, 91.3)
--October: 41.4 (30th)...(CAR, 54.4)
--November: 41.0 (30th)...(MTL, 55.9)