3 costly mistakes the Buffalo Sabres must avoid vs. Tampa Bay today

The Buffalo Sabres will try to make it three in a row for the first time this season vs. a strong Tampa Bay Lightning team and they can’t afford any mistakes.
Oct 17, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA;  Tampa Bay Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (71) skates with
Oct 17, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (71) skates with / Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
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The Buffalo Sabres will see if they can win their third game in a row vs. a Tampa Bay Lightning team that is currently seven points ahead of them in the wild card race. Buffalo would love nothing more than to cut into that lead today, but if they want to accomplish that, they must avoid a few mistakes they have been prone to making this season. 

We saw the Blue and Gold commit some of these on Thursday vs. the Chicago Blackhawks, but with the Lightning being a much better team, expect this tougher opponent to take advantage. So if the Sabres wish to maximize their chances this afternoon, they need to play a clean game in the following areas. 

3 mistakes the Buffalo Sabres must avoid

1 - Overcomplicating plays

If the Sabres sustained one major flaw in Thursday night’s win, it came when they reverted to their old habit of making things difficult for themselves in the offensive zone. While the Blackhawks didn’t have many scoring opportunities, they generated quite a few turnovers because the Sabres once again tried to do too much on offense. 

This forced Luukkonen to work more than he should have needed to, and vs. one of the NHL’s better teams like the Lightning, the Sabres won’t be so lucky. Tampa will make Buffalo pay every other time should they overcomplicate things this afternoon.

2 - Committing costly penalties

While the Sabres penalty kill has been great lately, nobody in the NHL has a better power play than the Lightning, who have an astounding 30.99 percent conversion rate. This puts Tampa up by over two percent over the second-place team on the list, the New York Rangers. 

The Sabres therefore cannot give Tampa many opportunities, because if they do, it could be the difference-maker in this game. It must be a clean outing throughout from the Blue and Gold, especially since they score way more at 5-on-5 than Tampa, tied for sixth with an aGF of 98 compared to Tampa’s 89, which ranks 17th. 

3 - Failing to take advantage of open scoring lanes

Lance Lysowski of Buffalo News pointed out head coach Don Granato’s reasoning for rolling with the lines he chose on Thursday, most notably with Zemgus Girgensons on the second. Doing so allowed for at least one player who liked creating traffic in front of the net on each of the four lines, and that trend shouldn’t change today, even if the lines themselves may. 

For the Buffalo Sabres, this means shooting the puck when there is an open lane because somebody will likely be waiting in front of the crease for a redirect. This should further deter the Blue and Gold from hesitating to shoot the puck often in the matinee, and keep pace with this Tampa Bay Lightning team that is sixth in scoring. 

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(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)