Finding the lost Sabres offense

The Buffalo Sabres have scored only 3 goals in the last three games combined. The struggle has been endless for this franchise, which is clearly no secret.

Many fans constantly clamor for a resolution, but the answer may be right in front of everyone’s nose.

Before we start our journey, take this next statement into thought before you continue reading. 

You can’t win if you don’t score. You can’t score if you don’t shoot. You can’t shoot if you don’t possess the puck.

Buffalo currently has 41 goals in 25 games (1.64 per game), which has them last in the NHL. Looking at the credentials of some Sabres players, you have to wonder how this has managed to happen.

Matt Moulson, goalless in his last 11 games, has scored 30 goals in a season three times, almost at ease. Drew Stafford, once a 30 goal scorer, has one goal in his last 10 games and 2 goals in 25 games. Ville Leino, no goals this season, has yet to tally as many goals in three years with Buffalo (8), as he did in his final year with the Philadelphia Flyers (19).

The talent surely is in Buffalo, but there seems to be something wrong with the overall equation.

That is when we get to the next point: is this bad luck or lack of execution?

See, lack of execution is being out of position, and not making the right adjustments. Bad luck is watching the opposing goaltender make an incredible save to stop a goal, or shooting a puck directly off the pipe.

Any Sabres fan can attest to, you’ll see players in the wrong positions more often than pucks pinging off the pipe.

As you look down the stats, it becomes evident that the offense truly is just executing poorly.

Matt Moulson (-5.1% with BUF), Drew Stafford (-7.7%), Steve Ott (-4.1%), Tyler Myers (-3.3%), and Christian Ehrhoff (-2.8%) are all well below their career averages in shooting percentage at this point of the season. 

The Sabres also find themselves ranked 29th in the NHL in shots per game, averaging only 25.4 per.

Moving on, something that has been overlooked these past few weeks is puck possession.

Puck possession has become popularly measured by a thing called the “Fenwick Rating”.

How does Fenwick measure puck possession?  Here is an example: Buffalo currently has a FF (Fenwick For) per game of 35.4, and a 46.0 FA (Fenwick Against) per game.

Take those numbers, and put them into the “Fenwick For” equation: (Fenwick for) divided by (Fenwick For minus Fenwick Against) equals a team’s “Fenwick Percentage”.

Doing the math leaves the Sabres at a league-worst 43.5% “Fenwick Percentage”, which means that Buffalo is getting 43.5% of scoring chances per game. 

Scoring chances indicate puck possession, so it is clearly safe to infer that they do not possess the puck enough.

Puck possession is the foundation to everything offense. The best NHL teams are the ones who successfully possess the puck.

Again, it seems like such a simple concept but it can be tough to implement: Possess the puck more, take more shots, get better scoring chances, score more goals.