The Two O’Clock Number: 31

The Sabres are bad.

31 — the league-wide rank (out of 31 NHL teams, just in case you forgot) of the Buffalo Sabres, tonight’s opponent, in each of the following offensive measures per 60 minutes played at 5-on-5:

  • Total shot attempts taken
  • Goals scored
  • Expected Goals tallied/

They’re also:

  • 30th in unblocked shot attempts taken (edging out Vancouver by .05 of those per 60)
  • 25th in shots on goal
  • 29th in shooting percentage, which you can choose to believe is a sign of bad luck, a a lack of offensive talent/creativity, or a combination of the two — the third one, in all likelihood — but it may be more of the first, since they are also...
  • 31st (last) in Expected Fenwick shooting percentage (i.e. the percentage of unblocked shot attempts that you would expect to be goals, based on the location/quality/type of shot taken)/

(All numbers above courtesy of; shot attempt numbers are adjusted for score, while goals/expected goals/shooting percentage numbers are not.)

Also, they’re 30th in the NHL in standings points percentage, ahead of only Arizona, who spent the entire first month of the season looking for a win.

Just under three years ago, back in January of 2015, the Flyers played the Sabres in Buffalo. In the preview for that game, I wrote this:

* The Sabres are bad! Like holy crap the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres are really, really bad. It is not in the slightest an exaggeration to say this is one of the worst NHL teams any of us have ever seen. Here is an incomplete list of things that the Sabres currently rank last in the NHL in:

Goals scored per game
Goals allowed per game
Power play percentage
Shots taken per game
Shots allowed per game
Literally any team-wide measure of possession (in fact, they are by far the NHL's worst possession team since possession metrics have been recorded)

So ... y'know ... no pressure, guys.

(If you’re at all curious, the Flyers won that game by a score of 4-3.)

Three years later, the Sabres are ... a bit better? I suppose? Sure, they’re better than that team was, but that was the lowest of possible bars, and this current Sabres team isn’t exactly setting a high one by any other standard at all. They’ve got Jack Eichel, who is very good despite something of a slow start to this season. But some folks out there have been expecting a step forward from them for a couple of seasons now, and while things will inevitably improve at some point, it’s hard to see just how they get there.

On Tuesday night — after a three-game road trip in which the Flyers won every game but weren’t always at their sharpest — the Flyers put forth what was a very strong defensive effort against a high-flying Maple Leafs team. It would be rather disappointing to follow that performance up with a let-down against what is most likely hockey’s most punchless team.

(Then again, “Rather Disappointing” is the default name of the Flyers’ video yearbook, so maybe we should just be prepared for a devastating loss tonight.)