[UPDATE: Sabres’ misery continues as winless streak reaches 16 games.]
On Wednesday, the Buffalo Sabres weren’t always as bad as the 5-2 loss against the Penguins indicates. Even so, the Sabres are now on a 15-game losing (and/or “winless”) streak thanks to a mixture of bad luck, structural flaws, and sheer incompetence.
It’s not just one thing, but moral victories don’t matter when you keep losing like this.
The Penguins improved to 20-11-2, while the Sabres sank to 6-21-4.
An updated look at the East Division standings. 👀 pic.twitter.com/ZNF0SMWf8m
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) March 25, 2021
Perhaps not always as bad as it looks … but still bad
Through the first period, things were fairly clinical. The Penguins built a 2-1 lead, generating a 21-12 shots on goal advantage. A sneaky-good Penguins defense and goaltending didn’t necessarily need to do much vs. the Sabres on Wednesday.
The Penguins really exaggerated the already-legitimate issues for the Sabres during the second period.
If you want to look at turning points, consider Rasmus Dahlin‘s night, in general.
During the first period, Dahlin gave the Sabres a measure of hope with a goal. The middle frame brought the pain, however — both literally and figuratively.
Bringing in injuries and insults, officials missed a high stick that bloodied Dahlin’s nose. Considering all the controversy surrounding the Tim Peel/”hot mic” officiating scandal, people jumped on that mistake.
Then, after that, the Penguins jumped on Sabres mistakes to really put this one out of reach, and sometimes Dahlin was helpless to stop them.
Taylor Hall received more grief than Dahlin on Wednesday, but they both are frustrated players on a (historically) losing team, and Dahlin’s the one who got bloodied in the process. Can’t be fun.
After the Penguins went up 4-1 to end the second, it was pretty much a write-off from there. Sidney Crosby had enough room to score a pretty, if redundant, third-period goal.
From the Penguins’ perspective, beating the lowly Sabres is taking care of business. It’s worth keeping an eye on Kasperi Kapanen, though, as he suffered through bumps and bruises in this one.
Perspective on Penguins pushing Sabres’ losing streak to 15 games
Between losing streaks and “winless” streaks, the Buffalo Sabres going 0-13-2 for 15 straight losses puts them in rare company.
Consider some of this perspective on the Sabres’ 15-game losing streak. For one thing, it’s now the longest of the shootout era.
LONGEST SINGLE-SEASON LOSING STREAKS
SHOOTOUT ERA (SINCE 2005-06)
BUFFALO SABRES – 15 GAMES – ACTIVE (2020-21)
BUFFALO SABRES – 14 GAMES – 2014-15
NEW YORK ISLANDERS – 14 GAMES – 2010-11
CAROLINA HURRICANES – 14 GAMES – 2009-10
Once you move beyond the shootout era, you also factor in the possibility of ties. So, looking at the Sabres’ 0-13-2 as a 15-game “winless” streak, here is where that doomed run compares to other winless streaks since 2000-01.
As you can see, the 2020-21 Sabres’ 15-game winless streak leaves them in a three-way tie for third-worst.
LONGEST SINGLE-SEASON WINLESS STREAKS
2003-04 PENGUINS: 18 GAMES
2002-03 PENGUINS: 16 GAMES
2003-04 COYOTES: 15 GAMES
2002-03 PREDATORS: 15 GAMES
2020-21 SABRES: 15 GAMES
6 OTHER TEAMS ARE TIED AT 14 GAMES
Interestingly, the 2020-21 Penguins will play a role in whether or not these Sabres will see their winless streak tie the 2002-03 Penguins at 16 games. The Sabres and Penguins won’t get much time to contemplate such historic specifics, either. They’ll turn around and face each other on Thursday to close off this back-to-back set.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.