The Buffalo Sabres fell 4-3 to Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon in what was yet another failed attempt for Lindy Ruff’s club to win back to back home games for the first time this season. The loss was especially disconcerting because Steve Ott’s third period tally had completed a comeback from a 2-0 deficit and had actually given Buffalo a 3-2 lead in the final frame.
Hodgson’s goal ignited a comeback, but the Sabres failed to earn a point in the loss. (Getty Images)
These close losses not only take a psychological toll on the team, and it’s fan base, but are devastating to Buffalo in the standings. Coming out of the previous lockout in 2004, the new CBA allowed for the overtime and shootout loser to collect a point, which would be great for the Sabres, if they could get these games into overtime.
Looking back through the early part of this season Buffalo had a lead on home ice in the third period against Carolina and lost in regulation, they allowed a late goal to Florida at home to lose in regulation, and they managed to lose in regulation to Pittsburgh yesterday despite owning a late game lead. Getting each of these games into extra time would result in 3 more points, tying them for 8th in the conference. Heck, they may have even managed to win one of them had they gotten out of regulation.
If you think this is making a mountain out of a molehill, look at these numbers.
2009 (NE Division Winners, 3rd in Eastern Conference, 100pts)
OT record 6-4, SO record 4-6,
20 games tied at end of regulation or 24% of all games played
2010 (7th in conference, 96 pts)
OT record 10-9, SO record 5-1
25 games tied at end of regulation or 30% of all games played
2011(DNQ for postseason, 9th in conference)
OT record 5-4, SO record 7-7
23 games tied at end of regulation or 28% of all games played
2012 (currently 12th in conference)
OT record 0-1, SO record 1-0
2 games tied at end of regulation or 12% of all games played
Examining the previous 3 seasons show that Buffalo has averaged getting games into OT in 24-30% of their contests. This season it’s only 12%, which is a stark drop-off, especially in a season where all games are in-conference and virtually a 4 point swing. If the Sabres were operating at their normal percentages it would equate to either a 2 or 3 point increase in the standings, which again would bring them back into the conference’s top 8. By contrast the Northeast Division leading Bruins have gotten into overtime in 4 of their 13 games, or 30% of their schedule thus far.
Ultimately winning in regulation is the goal for every team on a night in night out basis. However in such a condensed schedule it is especially important to snag every available point, and right now the Sabres are leaving points, even loser points, on the table.
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