The Buffalo Sabres have played better than you think since December 19th

The Buffalo Sabres may have gotten a much-needed wakeup call on December 19th when they lost big to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Jan 11, 2024; Buffalo, New York, USA;  Buffalo Sabres center Peyton Krebs (19) takes a shot on goal
Jan 11, 2024; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Peyton Krebs (19) takes a shot on goal / Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
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On December 19th, 2023, the Buffalo Sabres suffered one of their most embarrassing losses in recent memory, losing 9-4 to the Columbus Blue Jackets and dropping to 13-17-3 on the season. Fast-forward to January 12th, 2024, and the past three weeks have at least changed the tide somewhat. 

No, the Sabres haven’t played perfect hockey since that embarrassing loss, but they have been a much better team since in quite a few areas. They are 5-3-1 since that ill-fated game, with 11 points to show for it and 1.22 per (15th in the league). Do the math, and if they keep that pace up with 40 games to go, it’s another 49 points, giving them 89 on the season.

While the Sabres still need to up that number to get roughly into the 94-95 point range, it’s light years better than how they fared before their blowout loss on December 19th. With just 29 points in 33 contests at the time, the Blue and Gold garnered just 0.878 points per, putting them on pace for a measly 72 points, so it’s easy to see their sheer improvement in the nine games since.

Buffalo Sabres have played better hockey since blowout loss

Better yet, they also scored 33 goals in that stretch (14th in the league), good for 3.67 per contest. Sure, they also allowed 28 goals (10th-lowest in the league) in that span, giving them just a plus-5 differential, but their goaltending has also been in the top half of the Eastern Conference, ranking seventh since the 19th in save percentage.

Their top scorers have also picked up their respective games, with Jeff Skinner tied for the lead with 11 points and five goals. Unfortunately, Skinner is missing time with an upper-body injury, but Casey Mittelstadt (eight points), Tage Thompson (11 points), Alex Tuch (nine points), and Rasmus Dahlin (seven points) have all elevated their respective games for the most part. 

Buffalo has also been a more physical hockey team overall since then, with their plus-36 hits differential ranking third in the East behind only the New York Islanders and Florida Panthers, and eighth in the NHL. Therefore, not only has their overall scoring picked up, the Buffalo Sabres have also vastly improved a portion of their game they had been lacking for most of the Don Granato Era.

Now, the challenge facing the Blue and Gold is whether they can not just keep up this pace, but to improve it even more, as they will need to take their game up at least one more level if they plan on being the next team to make a rebound. 

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(Statistics and data provided by QuantHockey and Hockey-Reference)