Dan Bylsma hoped his team had enough pain and anguish.
The answer? Nope.
The Sabres continued skidding on Tuesday night, dropping a 6-3 decision at home to Philadelphia. It was their third straight loss and second straight at home, and whatever playoff hopes the team might’ve had — remember, they were 26-23-10 on Feb. 18 — have been dashed, thanks to an ugly 1-5-2 mark over its last eight games.
With last night’s loss, Buffalo’s points percentage dropped to .493 on the year. That’s down (albeit ever so slightly) from last year’s .494 which, regardless size of decrease, is troubling. This was supposed to be a Sabres team on the rise, one ready to challenge for the playoffs. That was the impetus behind splashy free agent signing Kyle Okposo, to build on a trajectory that saw Buffalo improve by a whopping 27 points from ’14-15 to ’15-16.
The Sabres are on pace for 81… just like last year.
The biggest concern from this recent stretch is the club’s resiliency. Specifically, the lack of it.
Bylsma and the Sabres could have, at least previously, hung their hats on their ability to keep the bad times from going too long. They have just two three-game regulation losing streaks this year, finding ways to eke out OT ans shootout points. They also played some solid hockey in late January and early February, to ignite talks of snapping their six-year postseason drought.
From Jan. 20 to Feb. 18, Buffalo went 9-5-1 behind some quality play from Jack Eichel and Evander Kane. Those those two have put forth good campaigns — Eichel’s been a point-a-game player since returning from his ankle injury, with 45 in 46 games, while Kane leads the team with 24 goals.
But those efforts haven’t masked some larger, looming issues. The defense is a mess. Lehner’s been criticized for his inability to deliver a big save. And there are questions about Dan Bylsma’s job security, to the point where GM Tim Murray was asked recently about it.
Murray defended his coach, putting the blame on the players’ shoulders. As you’d expect him to. But heading into an offseason that projects to be filled with options — Ken Hitchcock, Gerard Gallant, Jack Capuano, Michel Therrien among them — one has to wonder if a coaching change will be considered.