The Buffalo Sabres played in their “dress rehearsal” preseason game last night, and defensively, it didn’t go so well, especially for Connor Clifton.
Wow, that was one brutal game, as the Buffalo Sabres looked as though they forgot how to play defense. The good news in this pitiful defensive performance is that it came in the preseason, and not when the games really matter.
If this were still the case when the early stages of the playoff race heat up, then we can panic, but I’m going to go bold on this one and state that this past evening’s game is as bad as you will see it. No, I’m not saying that the Sabres will perform better than they did last night in all 82 games – that’s impossible.
But I am saying that they won’t sink further south than what you just witnessed last night, and they will far more often find themselves trending north. That goes for the entire unit, not just the defensive rotation. And if you want me to get even bolder, I’m going out on a limb and saying the Sabres defensive identity gets quite the makeover this year – hey, these are bold predictions, right?
Buffalo Sabres defensive play will be far better than anticipated
You look at the Sabres from both the eye test and from an analytical standpoint in 2022-23, and you get the same common denominator: This team was arguably in the bottom five as a unit when they didn’t have the puck. And last night, they looked every bit like that team, but as the season progresses, so will the defensive play from Tage Thompson (their highest-scoring forward) to Riley Stillman (the likeliest seventh defenseman).
Early in the new calendar year, they will have their defensive game figured out. I already predicted they would have quite a few more hitters this year, but it will go beyond that. The Buffalo Sabres defensive unit, just as their scoring did a year prior, will more than surprise the hockey world.
This isn’t to say they will finish the year in the Top 16, but they will no longer find themselves hovering near the bottom five, and they won’t even grace the bottom 10. The squad will figure out their defensive woes, and that will be a catalyst catapulting them into the playoffs.
(Analytics provided by Hockey-Reference)