The Buffalo Sabres head into Week 15 facing three teams that they have enjoyed some fine performances against over the past 13 months. Therefore, all three bold predictions this week have a running theme regarding some of the youngest players in the lineup - one goaltender (well, they’re both young), one forward, and one defenseman - who have played better than their expectations at various points in the year.
So which youngsters made the cut and how much will they produce in what could be a turning point in the Blue and Gold’s season? Turning point, you may be asking? Hey, this week’s slate is allowing us to get ultra-bold here, so why not?
Bold predictions for the Buffalo Sabres in Week 15 of 2023-24
1 - Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s save percentage hits 0.940 for the week
Over his last four starts, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has a 0.938 save percentage and he will stay hot, logging two starts while snagging a 0.940. Given such a high save percentage, it will also keep his GAA under 2.00 and his overall numbers for the year will keep trekking north.
Had you asked me if I would be projecting Luukkonen logging a 0.940 save percentage in the middle of the year as the Sabres top goaltender, I probably would have laughed and refused to answer. But here we are, 43 games into the season, and confident that Luukkonen will indeed reach lofty stats.
2 - JJ Peterka keeps getting good looks, sinks two goals, four points
JJ Peterka has been getting good looks lately, and he finally ended his near-month-long drought without scoring a goal during the Sabres 5-3 win over Ottawa. While Buffalo struggled offensively on Saturday vs. Vancouver, Peterka still parlayed his performance vs. the Canucks into generating multiple scoring chances with two shots on goal.
This week, Peterka becomes the go-to and finds the net two more times in two different contests with an additional pair of helpers. Let’s take one step further and even project Peterka to add another game-winning goal, which would give him three on the year.
3 - Ryan Johnson exceeds expectations with more playing time
It’s hard to call this prediction a bold one, as Ryan Johnson, has for the most part, played well enough to garner more ice time and to stay out of the press box. Lately, Johnson’s been seeing an increased role in the defensive rotation, and he saw 22:22 of time on the ice in Saturday evening’s loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
This week, we’ll see him receive more time playing top-four minutes, and excel in the role, primarily building on what he’s been doing since his first game with the Buffalo Sabres when they played Toronto back in November. A beyond-solid week from Johnson should foreshadow a primary role in the top-four, and that might pay off for the Blue and Gold defensively in the final 39 contests, playoffs or not.
(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)