If the Buffalo Sabres played the best teams in the NHL every night this season, they may be one of the top units in hockey.
When the Philadelphia Flyers shut out the Buffalo Sabres this past January, it became apparent playing down to competition was a major issue for them, and the numbers aren’t promising for 2023-24. Just check out the following excerpt from Mike Harrington of Buffalo News on how the Blue and Gold fared this year against the league’s best, and more mediocre teams:
"“They’re 5-4-0 against teams in the top 10 of the NHL’s overall standing. Against teams that entered Monday as Nos. 11-23? The record is 5-12-3, including 0-4-2 against Carolina, New Jersey and Montreal.”"
If the Sabres figure out how to play consistent hockey against some of the teams in this league they should at least occasionally beat, then the season is far from over. But if they keep struggling against lesser competition as the calendar turns to 2024, then the No. 13 will get more transparent.
Playing to competition has been a major issue for the Buffalo Sabres in 2023
13 is a number that, of course, represents the years the Blue and Gold would once again miss the playoffs should they keep struggling against teams they should be better than. Luckily for the Buffalo Sabres, they will get some help this week, with Jack Quinn and Jordan Greenway returning from their respective injuries, and that could inject some new life into this group.
If this team stays healthy following Quinn’s, Greenway’s, and ultimately Jeff Skinner’s respective returns, then perhaps they can get consistent against more than just the league’s best. But as mentioned, even when the Sabres were fully healthy last year, they still had issues consistently beating lesser-talented opponents.
Tonight, the Sabres will face one of those teams in the Columbus Blue Jackets, so the pressure is on for them to turn the page following their shutout loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday. If they win, then perhaps this team may finally put together a small winning streak with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers coming up next – a pair of teams Buffalo outscored 11-5 in November.
(Further information provided by Hockey-Reference)