How long has it been since the Buffalo Sabres have won four games in a row?
Paging through recent NHL records is mind-boggling. Saying the answer is nearly four years ago is one thing. But seeing how often it happens for other teams is another thing entirely.
Since the then-tanking Blue and Gold somehow won four times in a seven-day stretch from Dec. 9-15, 2014, an NHL team has won at least four straight 252 different times.
Teams put up streaks of at least four games routinely during their seasons. It's how you pile up points. It happened 56 times last season. It happened 72 times during the 2016-17 campaign.
Just not for the Sabres.
On Dec. 30, 2016, in fact, the Columbus Blue Jackets took their 14-game winning streak to Minnesota, where they ended the Wild's 12-game run en route to finally getting to 16 straight. Head-to-head streaks of 12-plus games was a first in league history but it showed what kind of runs consistency can produce.
The Sabres will be in Columbus on Saturday night, looking for four in a row this year when they face the Blue Jackets in Nationwide Arena. These are baby steps for sure but important ones for a club that suddenly finds itself just two points behind Atlantic Division co-leaders Toronto and Boston 10 games into the season.
Coming back three times to finally win Thursday's 4-3 thriller against Montreal spoke volumes about where this group's mindset currently sits.
"It's definitely different," winger Zemgus Girgensons said Friday. "The stats show it. You feel it. You read and see lots of things on Twitter about having the best record in October since 2011.
"It was big to come off the West Coast trip we had with that game. the work the guys are putting in is showing in the games. Guys are willing to do what it takes to win and it's a good mindset we have here."
The Sabres won three in a row just one time last season when they swept their Western Canada road trip in January. They have had six three-game streaks since the four-gamer that horrified the club's tanking fans — but have gone 0-6 in the next game trying to get to four again.
(As it turned out, of course, tankers had nothing to worry about. When the four-game run ended with a 5-1 loss at Winnipeg on Dec. 16, 2015, that started the worst stretch in franchise history. The Sabres went 1-17-1 in their next 19 games, losing a team-record 14 in a row and going pointless in January at 0-12.)
"We're going into games a lot more confident," said defenseman Zach Bogosian. "In years past, so much was up in the air what was going to happen. We know how we're going to play now and the new personnel has done well for us."
Longtime winger Jason Pominville openly talked about the "Dahlin effect" following Thursday's game in a reference to the steady play of No. 1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin, who set up Kyle Okposo's game-winner power-play goal with 1:01 left. This team controls the puck much better from the back end, moves the puck better to the forwards and can pass it much better in all zones.
The Sabres also are developing some attitude. They plundered Los Angeles and Anaheim to close their Western trip and then outshot Montreal, 42-22, in taking Thursday's game.
"The feeling is definitely there," said winger Patrik Berglund, who made six straight trips to the playoffs with St. Louis from 2012-2017. "When everybody starts to realize what it takes to win, the type of work you need to put in throughout the game, that's what happens. These three games we've played some really good winning hockey."
What impressed coach Phil Housley about his team Thursday was its ability to deal with adversity.
"The guys showed resiliency after being down three times and finally getting on top for the game-winner," Housley said. "We're still building and developing players. At the same time when you win games, it brings the group together and helps our confidence."
The Sabres actually appear to have a deep lineup, a claim you probably have to go back as far as the 2011-12 season to make in these parts.
"All four lines, all six 'D' and whatever goalie is playing have meshed well," Bogosian said. "There's a ton of skill up front and on the back end. We've played some good games with good chemistry and have to keep that going."