The San Jose Sharks didn’t win their first game against the Buffalo Sabres until their fifth try.
That set the tone for a matchup that’s been entirely one-sided since, in favor of the Sabres. It doesn’t matter if they line up against Pat LaFontaine or Jack Eichel, if the Sabres are wearing blue and gold, red and black, or blue and gold again: San Jose has not been able to beat Buffalo consistently.
It’s been the perfect storm, really. Take a small sample size (37 matchups over 25 seasons), throw in the league’s parity, and the sport’s inherent randomness and you get one logic-defying stretch over a quarter-century.
With that in mind, here are some facts that best epitomize just how much the Sharks have struggled against the Sabres.
The Sharks have given up four or more goals 20 times
No team has scored more goals per game against the Sharks than the Sabres (3.79). In 20 of those 37 games, Buffalo has scored four or more goals. It’s hard to win when you give up four goals every other time you play a team.
And get this: every permanent coach in Sharks history has coached a game in which Buffalo’s scored five or more goals. Even one-year wonders Jim Wiley and Al Sims! It’s essentially a rite of passage at this point.
The Sharks have a losing record when they outshoot the Sabres
Your eyes do not deceive you: San Jose’s outshot Buffalo 18 times, and only won four times. Shots aren’t the end-all, be-all, and there were no doubt games in which Buffalo dominated and the Sharks outshot them after failing to mount a comeback.
But only four wins over that stretch? Meanwhile, the Sabres have had no problem beating the Sharks when they get the edge in shots, winning 10 out of 16 times.
Are we completely sure there isn’t a curse at play?
The Sharks have never won consecutive games against the Sabres
This is the granddaddy of them all. The Sharks have simply never pulled off a winning streak against Buffalo.. Last season was the first time they’ve picked up points in consecutive games, losing the first in overtime and winning the second in regulation.
The Sharks have managed to win consecutive games against all but one franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas also didn’t play a game until last week and didn’t exist as a franchise a year-and-a-half ago.
The Sharks have winning streaks against the old Jets and the new Jets. They have winning streaks against the Coyotes, who were the old Jets, and the Thrashers, who are the new Jets. How absurd is that?
That can all change tonight at SAP Center, since the Sharks won the last match-up in March. If the history of this series has showed us one thing, though, it’s to expect things to get weird.