After winning 10 consecutive games earlier this season, the Buffalo Sabres have slumped through an extensive 11-17-5 stretch. That hot streak was followed by a big chill in the form of a five-game losing skid.
Which brings us to the St. Louis Blues.
With the Blues having won 10 in a row — and seeking an 11th consecutive victory tonight, against Toronto at Enterprise Center — it’s natural to compare St. Louis and Buffalo to see if there are lessons to absorb.
The logic goes something like this: if the Sabres flopped so horribly after winning 10 straight, the Blues could lose an edge and fall into the same fate. A 10-game win streak is sweet but … but be careful about making assumptions based on current events. The streak will end and things will change.
Well, yes. The streak will end. And when it does come to a close the Blues will have to prove themselves all over again — that they can rebound right away and get back on track instead of lapsing into a cold spell.
But there are huge differences between the Buffalo 10-game win streak and the Blues’ 10-game win streak. Please permit me to point out a few:
* The Blues went into the season with high hopes. They had enhanced their talent over the offseason. They were supposed to be good. Expected to be good. They got off to a lousy start, but the talent was there to make this a playoff team. The expectations were much lower in Buffalo. The point: Buffalo’s fade is no surprise. The Sabres’ 10-game winning streak was a surprise. The Blues’ 10-game win streak is surprising — but only because all 10-game winning streaks are surprising. But again, the 2018-2019 Blues were always in possession of the kind of talent that can win a lot of games in a hurry. They just had to get organized by a new coach (Craig Berube), find a calming goaltender (Jordan Binnington) and rededicate themselves to an elevated work ethic.
* Before winning 10 straight, the Sabres slipped through a 1-4 skid. Again: not that great of a team.
* Before launching their 10-game streak, the Blues had turned the corner and were playing better hockey. Heading into the streak the Blues had a 6-4-1 record in their previous 11 games.
* During their 10-game winning streak, the Sabres won seven of the 10 in overtime or via shootout. In their current 10-game run, the Blues have won only two games in OT. They’ve won six times by two or more goals. They’ve won four times by four-plus goals. And they’ve shut out opponents four times — including three consecutive shutouts entering tonight’s game vs. Toronto.
* In winning 10 in a row, the Sabres outscored opponents 36-24 … a 12-goal difference. In clicking off 10 uninterrupted wins, the Blues have thumped opponents by a total margin of 26 goals. That would be 40-14.
* In their 10-game season peak, the Sabres outscored opponents 28-20 at even strength. And in standard five-on-five play, Buffalo had 21 goals to opponents’ 19.
* In winning 10 straight the Blues have outscored opponents 35-10 at even strength … and by an astonishing 30-8 when playing the usual five-on-five. That says it all, eh? At five-on-five, Buffalo was a a +2 in goal differential. The Blues were a preposterous +22 in goal differential.
* In the Corsi metric, let’s compare the even-strength possession rating of each team during its 10-game winning streak: Buffalo 47.4 percent; St. Louis 51 percent. And at even strength the Blues controlled 55.8 percent of the shots compared to Buffalo’s 46.7 percent. And here are the high-danger scoring chances (compared to opponents) during each team’s 10-game roll: Blues 62.7 percent, Sabres 41.3 percent.
* Goaltending during each team’s 10-game winning streak: the Blues had a .956 save percentage at even strength compared to Buffalo’s .933 save-pct. High danger save percentage: Blues .889, Sabres .857.
The Sabres deserve praise for winning 10 in a row. But the truth is, they were barely getting by in many of the 10 wins. And they were actually on the wrong side of the possession and shooting metrics. This is not the case with the Blues, who have been absolutely dominating in rolling over opponents for 10 straight triumphs. And that explains why I’m strongly inclined to brush off the warnings of a Sabres-like swoon by the Blues when the streak ends.
Thanks for reading …