The scoreboard read Buffalo 4, Carolina 1. But going strictly by stats, the outcome could’ve been very different. Carolina outshot Buffalo 28-21. Factor in blocked shots, and their margin was a whopping 49-29. Carolina won 30 of 52 faceoffs. And Carolina had fewer giveaways (5 to Buffalo’s 8) and more takeaways (9 to Buffalo’s 7).
That’s why statistics only tell part of the story.
How do you quantify Eichel’s bravado of picking up a loose puck at center ice, skating in, and firing a laser top shelf over Cam Ward’s right shoulder?
How do you measure the burden Brian Gionta carried with him after being stripped of the puck, directly leading to Victor Rask’s game-tying goal. Or his relief as he deflected Matt Moulson’s pass, putting the Sabres up 3-1. His post goal celebration doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.
What category on the stat sheet measures the excitement of scoring your first goal in 130 games? Defenseman Josh Gorges last goal was October 12, 2013 with his former team, Montreal. “It’s been a long time,” Gorges said. “It wasn’t much of a goal but I’ll take it and we needed to get the first goal tonight.”
That’s why sports are so great. Stats are only numbers. It’s the playmaking, the drive, and the passion behind the numbers that tell the real story.
For Eichel’s game-winner that put the Sabres up 2-1, Eichel commented, “I was coming down my strong side, trying to go across the goalie’s body at his blocker. Everybody can catch a puck these days, so I tried to keep it away from his glove.”
“It’s a big goal and I thought after that play, the game changed for us,” said Sabres coach Dan Bylsma.
In any given season, teams will lose games in which they dominate. And they’ll win games they have no business winning. It happens. For the first half of this game, Buffalo could’ve been down by a few. “We had a lot of turnovers and were feeding right into their speed,” Gionta said. “They’re a quick team that transitions well and their ‘D’ jump in the play a lot.” Chad Johnson kept them in it. He’s 2-1-1 with a .951 save percentage this month.
The second half of the game was all Buffalo, especially the third period, allowing only 5 shots on goal.
Having lost their last six –all against Western Conference teams– this was a game they desperately needed. And ultimately, it gave them only statistic that really mattered: a win in the win column.