I tend to be a “glass half full” guy (to a fault) so “3 straight wins and 3 points behind a playoff spot with 16 games to go” usually sounds OK to me.
Then why doesn’t this feel like anything at all?
Let’s dig through some numbers and try to get to the bottom of this malaise.
Why can’t a guy who always has hope grab onto anything right now?
>It’s 3 games. Only 7 teams (Islanders, Flyers, Panthers, Oilers, Flames, Avalanche, and Coyotes) HAVEN’T strung together a 3 game winning streak in this shortened season.
>The 3 wins each came by a one goal margin, including one in OT and one in a shootout.
>It’s Buffalo’s second 3 game winning streak of the season. The previous one also featured all one goal games including TWO shootouts.
>This sure does look a lot like a phenomenon commonly known as regression toward the mean.
A class of students takes two editions of the same test on two successive days. It has frequently been observed that the worst performers on the first day will tend to improve their scores on the second day, and the best performers on the first day will tend to do worse on the second day. The phenomenon occurs because student scores are determined in part by underlying ability and in part by chance. For the first test, some will be lucky, and score more than their ability, and some will be unlucky and score less than their ability. Some of the lucky students on the first test will be lucky again on the second test, but more of them will have (for them) average or below average scores. Therefore a student who was lucky on the first test is more likely to have a worse score on the second test than a better score. Similarly, students who score less than the mean on the first test will tend to see their scores increase on the second test.
>Taking shootouts out of the equation, the Sabres have actually outscored an opponent just 9 times in 32 games. They’ve outscored an opponent by more than one goal just 4 times.
>Again without shootouts, they’ve been outscored 17 times and outscored by more than one goal 8 times.
>With the quirks of this year’s schedule, every opponent is fighting to get into the playoffs from the same pool of Eastern Conference clubs. This makes it vitally important not only to gain points in the standings but also to prevent the other team from doing so, a feat the Sabres have accomplished only 8 times (by virtue of 8 regulation wins.)
>Meanwhile, they’ve come away from a game empty-handed 15 times themselves.
Mathematically, making up the ground necessary to get to the postseason is certainly feasible. It’s too bad there’s nothing to indicate that this present team is capable of getting it done.