NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three key statistics for the Buffalo Sabres.
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1. Bench experience
The Buffalo Sabres hired Phil Housley, who spent the past four seasons as an assistant with the Nashville Predators, as coach on June 15. He replaced Dan Bylsma, who was fired after coaching 164 games for the Sabres.
There is a way to measure the impact of a coaching change by comparing how a coach's teams have performed in the standings, minus expectations. As explained in my 2013 book "Hockey Abstract," these expectations can be set in a variety of ways, most simply by taking the team's points from the previous season regressed 35 percent toward the NHL average.
From this perspective, Bylsma, who als coached 401 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins, has added an average of 6.7 points per season to the standings, second among last season's coaches to Bruce Boudreau of the Minnesota Wild (9.8).
Housley has never been a coach in the NHL.
Video: 31 in 31: Buffalo Sabres 2017-18 season preview
2. Key to the defense
Buffalo allowed an average of 34.3 shots per game last season, which was the most in the NHL for the third time in five seasons.
The Sabres leaned heavily on defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to play the tough minutes by killing penalties and taking on top opponents in the defensive zone. He ranked sixth among NHL defensemen with an average of 20:17 per game at even strength and 15th with an average of 2:59 shorthanded.
At 5-on-5, Ristolainen was eighth in the League with 530 shifts starting in the defensive zone. His most frequent opponents were the highest-scoring forwards on top divisional rivals: Max Pacioretty (37:11) and Alexander Radulov (34:38) of the Montreal Canadiens; Mark Stone (36:31) and Derick Brassard (36:18) of the Ottawa Senators; and David Pastrnak (33:04) and Brad Marchand (32:48) of the Boston Bruins, according to the data compiled at Hockey Analysis.
3. Shining in the shootout
Every point counts when you're trying to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. One way to get a few more is by winning shootouts, where the Sabres have added four points in 17 shootouts over the past two seasons, one more than the League-worst Dallas Stars.
The Sabres added forward Jason Pominville in a trade with the Wild and signed free agent forward Jacob Josefson. A player's value in the shootout can be measured by the number of goals he has scored over and above a League-average shooter, who will score on 31.4 percent of his attempts. From that perspective, Pominville has provided an extra 6.6 shootout goals in his NHL career (15th among active players), and Josefson has added 4.4 (23rd). The only player on Buffalo's roster who has provided at least one extra shootout goal is Matt Moulson (3.1).
Video: MIN@BUF: Pominville beats Lehner to secure the win