By Budd Bailey

The end of the hockey season has been something of a Christmas present over the years. You get to look back on the season and analyze the statistics in its entirety.

That’s what we’ll do here on an illegal basis once again during the current offseason. I’ll poke around the NHL stats and see what I find.

Let’s start with a painful one, even if we can sort of guess the answer before the start. Let’s look at how teams did in the first half of the season compared to the second half. This puts things into a little bit of context. Obviously, the numbers for the Sabres aren’t too good. I’ll take it from best to worst:

Team – 1st – 2nd – Diff.
St. Louis – 38 – 61 – +23
Carolina – 43 – 56 – +13
Chicago – 36 – 48 – +12
Arizona – 37 – 49 – +12
Philadelphia – 36 – 46 – +10
Boston – 50 – 57 – +7
Florida – 41 – 45 – +4
N.Y. Islanders – 50 – 53 – +3
San Jose – 49 – 52 – +3
Dallas – 46 – 47 – +1
Los Angeles – 35 – 36 – +1
Detroit – 37 – 37 – +0
Nashville – 50 – 50 – +0
New Jersey – 39 – 38 – -1
Calgary – 54 – 53 – -1
Montreal – 49 – 47 – -2
Colorado – 46 – 44 – -2
Vegas – 48 – 45 – -3
Vancouver – 42 – 39 – -3
Edmonton – 41 – 38 – -3
Tampa Bay – 66 – 62 – -4
Washington – 54 – 50 – -4
Pittsburgh – 52 – 48 – -4
Columbus – 51 – 47 – -4
N.Y. Rangers – 41 – 37 – -4
Ottawa – 35 – 29 – -6
Minnesota – 45 – 38 – -7
Winnipeg – 54 – 45 – -9
Anaheim – 45 – 35 – -10
Toronto – 56 – 44 – -12
Buffalo – 50 – 26 – -24

If the Sabres had duplicated their first-half performance, they would have finished with 100 points – joining nine other teams in triple digits and safely in the playoffs. Toronto, Nashville and Pittsburgh also had 100 points. If Buffalo had duplicated its second-half performance, it would have had 52 points. That would be the worst number in the league, 12 points behind Ottawa. In fact, it would have been the worst point total in 2017-18 as well. I don’t know how the Sabres’ 24-point drop ranks historically, but it can’t be too good.

The numbers put the remarkable rise of the St. Louis Blues into a little perspective. They played like the Edmonton Oilers in the first half, and then put up almost as many points as Tampa Bay in the second half. The numbers also give Chicago, Arizona and Philadelphia some hope that better days are coming next season.

(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has been involved in almost every aspect of the local sports scene for the last 40 years. He worked for WEBR Radio, the Buffalo Sabres' public relations department and The Buffalo News during that time. In that time he covered virtually every aspect of the area's sports world, from high schools to the Bills and Sabres and everything in between. Along the way, Budd served as a play-by-play announcer for the Bisons, an analyst for the Stallions, and a talk-show host. He won the National Lacrosse League's Tom Borrelli Award as the media personality of the year in 2011, and was a finalist for that same award in 2017. Budd's seventh and eighth books, one on the Transcontinental Railroad and the other about Ichiro Suzuki, are scheduled to be released in the fall.

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