The Buffalo Sabres finished 2022-23 with 91 points, and in doing so, they beat more than a few teams who made the playoffs last season.
If I were to make a projection for the 2023-24 Buffalo Sabres right now, it’s that they would be at least a wild card team, with 100 or more points heading into the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoff. Like last season, I can see Buffalo playing well on the road, and at least splitting most if not all season series vs. playoff teams, just as they did in 2022-23.
Here’s a fun fact: The Seattle Kraken were the only playoff team to sweep Buffalo last season. The Sabres, at worst, split with the Western Conference’s other playoff teams. Against their Eastern Conference opponents, Buffalo won their respective season series against three of them – the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, and the New York Islanders.
Overall, the Sabres finished 18-22-3 vs. playoff teams, good for 39 of their 91 overall points. And while they still had a losing record against those who played in the postseason last year, what was the youngest team in hockey showed that they can hang with some of the league’s best teams.
2023-24 Buffalo Sabres could finish with a winning record vs. playoff teams
With the Sabres slated to be a better overall unit in 2023-24 and one more than capable of reaching the playoffs, we can expect a winning record vs. those teams who will earn a trip to the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoff. While this will undoubtedly create optimism, it could also make a young Sabres team prone to falling into a potential trap.
Playoff hockey and regular season hockey are two different games, and the last thing the Sabres need is to think they can go into the postseason and play any respective team the same way they did during the regular season. Playing meaningful games late last year helped as it raised the level of urgency. But the postseason is a different monster that the Blue and Gold must quickly realize is not regular season hockey by any means.
These are two of many reasons why I was glad, in hindsight, to see them bring back Kyle Okposo, while signing Erik Johnson and Connor Clifton, all of whom have playoff experience. Alex Tuch has also been to the playoffs a few times with the Vegas Golden Knights, but for a young team, veteran leadership that the 35-year-old Okposo and Johnson will bring best prepares the Buffalo Sabres for what’s waiting in the postseason. And they will at least minimize the risk that the team will fool itself in the playoffs should they make it in 2024.
Source: Buffalo Sabres Can End Their Playoff Drought in 2023-24 by Jake Varcoe, The Hockey Writers
(Data provided by Hockey-Reference)