Low expectations for the second half of 2023-24 may work in the Buffalo Sabres favor

The Buffalo Sabres entered 2023-24 with high expectations, only to see them reach the wayside by the midseason point, but it may not be a bad thing.

Jan 6, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Buffalo Sabres defenseman Mattias Samuelsson (23)
Jan 6, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Mattias Samuelsson (23) / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Heading into 2022-23, few, if anyone viewed the Buffalo Sabres in a favorable light, considering the narrative they were at least one season away from contending, or at least that was the narrative. The way the Blue and Gold are playing this season was how many experts and analysts believed they would look last season while the 2022-23 Sabres figured to be what we’re seeing them playing like this year. 

But when they strung together quite a few winning streaks last year, expectations rose, as did lean stretches. We saw this particularly occur in November 2022 and March 2023, with the latter being a far more notorious example that ultimately cost them a shot at the playoffs. 

When the Sabres play deteriorates, high expectations often precede the poor performances, and once those expectations drop, their play inversely rises a few notches. Despite sky-high expectations when this season began, they have now evaporated, which if recent history serves us well, should foreshadow the team’s best run here in January 2024.

Buffalo Sabres expectations are gone; will winning follow?

This is also nothing new, as when Buffalo bottomed out in February 2022, they played their most inspiring late-season hockey in years. With this team containing quite a few holdovers from the 2021-22 team, it should surprise none of us if the 2023-24 Sabres embark on a similar run that could see an improbable return to playoff contention come March. 

But as you can probably tell, there is also a catch if this is indeed the case: Those high expectations will return. That said, the Buffalo Sabres must sooner or later play up to their billing for once. 

If the Blue and Gold win twice as many games as they lose in the next month-and-a-half, then the pressure is back on. And it’s up to the Sabres to, for once, embrace the chaos and play the way almost everyone at the beginning of the season thought they would. But first, recent history needs to repeat itself, and the only way for Buffalo to make that happen is if they start playing with a one-game season mentality. 

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(Data provided by Hockey-Reference)