Trivia question: What takes less time, two goals by the Sabres or running a marathon?
The correct answer is goals by Buffalo, but it’s ridiculously close.
A week ago, Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang ran the Berlin Marathon in 2 hours, 3 minutes, 23 seconds. The Sabres needed 2:02:30 to up their season goal total from one to two over the weekend, giving them a 53-second edge.
It’s not really a fair comparison, though. Kipsang had flat land. The Sabres are heading downhill.
Buffalo is off to a historically bad start. The team has lost its opening three games in regulation for the first time ever.
So when is the initial victory going to come?
The Sabres get three chances this week. They host Tampa Bay on Tuesday and Columbus on Thursday, then travel to defending champion Chicago on Saturday. They might not be favored in any of the games.
If the Sabres don’t win this week, they’ll be on the verge of more dubious team history. The record for longest winless start to a season is seven games, set in 1990-91 (0-4-3) and matched in 1999-2000 (0-5-2).
“All the teams that we played this week can be beaten,” defenseman Mike Weber said. “Getting everyone on the same page, finding a way to be consistent every night in our system is the key. There’s one way that we have to play to win games, and we haven’t played like that yet.”
In order to avoid more infamy, the Sabres will have to start scoring. They have two goals in three outings for an NHL-worst average of 0.67 per game. They are one of eight teams without a power-play goal, and they’ve had the most opportunities (13) among the scoreless squads.
It’s not good when folks already are digging through the annals of ineptitude to see which team had the worst offense in history. The Lightning hold the record for fewest goals in an 82-game season, scoring 151 times for an average of 1.84 per game in 1997-98.
Zemgus Girgensons (loose puck in front) and Thomas Vanek (deflection in front) are the only Sabres to score. Top-six forwards Cody Hodgson, Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis average fewer than 1.7 shots per game.
“Our top six have to be better,” coach Ron Rolston said. “That’s what this league is all about is your top six have to perform and they have to be your best players on a nightly basis.”
The Sabres’ scoring woes have been fueled by poor passing and an inability or unwillingness to get near the opponents’ net. Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard and Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury could have lined the top of their crease with china sets and skated home with the saucers intact.
“We had the puck and we controlled the game and we were in their zone, so they didn’t get to come on our side too much,” Fleury said Saturday after needing only 20 saves for a 4-1 victory.
The Penguins and Red Wings got plenty of help hemming in the Sabres. Buffalo’s passing has been off, which prevents it from creating plays and getting momentum.
“Our exits out of our D-zone aren’t as clean as we need them to be, especially against top-end teams likes these,” Weber said. “It’s shift in and shift out, every guy on the team knowing exactly what they have to do and executing it, supporting each other.”
The Sabres took Sunday off to recuperate and regroup after starting with three games in four nights. They’ll practice today and try to figure out how to find the net – and a victory – against Tampa.
“We have to figure it out real quick,” Hodgson said, “because these losses are piling up right away.”