3 major improvements the Buffalo Sabres must make for the last two games of 2023 and beyond

The Buffalo Sabres are a hockey team with a lack of direction midway through the 2023-24 season, but luckily, there is still time to get back on track.

Dec 23, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Ryan Johnson (33) and New York
Dec 23, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Ryan Johnson (33) and New York / Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Sabres aren’t out of it yet, but the margin of error is thinner than ever before, and it will only keep pinning the Blue and Gold’s backs closer to the wall. Therefore, Buffalo must make a few immediate improvements if they plan on turning their inconsistent season around and making a run, and it would ideally start tonight vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

If the Sabres improve in the following areas tonight, and again tomorrow, then they will give themselves the best possible chance to finally win two games in a row, and set the stage for a better 2024. Keep reading to discover what improvements the Sabres must make in the immediate future. 

3 major improvements the Buffalo Sabres must make

1 - Special teams

When your power play finishes 0 for 6 and your penalty kill essentially goes 0 for 3 (they were really 1 for 4 thanks to a last-minute chance), you’re not beating anybody. That’s what happened to the Sabres in their recent loss to the Boston Bruins, and it prompted head coach Don Granato to make changes to the power play unit. 

We will see the new-look units on display tonight, and they will force the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ottawa Senators to adjust. That may give the Sabres beginner’s luck here, but in the grand scope of things, the man advantage must click as the calendar year turns the page to 2024. 

2 - Playing a full 60 minutes

Following Erik Johnson’s goal to cut the Bruins lead to three on Wednesday night, the Sabres felt a surge of energy and finally played solid hockey for the final 15 minutes of the game. However, there was an obvious problem: They played an awful game for the first 45 minutes.

It’s long-past time for this team to realize that NHL games last for 60 minutes and that every second counts. They have proven themselves capable of beating even the league’s best when they play a sound 60-minute contest, and if they ever get consistent at it, then this slump will be long-forgotten come April.

3 - Playing better defense

The Sabres defense has found itself out of position one too many times lately, and it’s something we also saw on full display this past Wednesday. Earlier in the week, we specifically talked about how poor defense has contributed to some recent losses, and if the Sabres master such a simple system, such struggles should evaporate. 

With Buffalo slated to play two of the worst teams in the East, they have a good chance to string together a pair of solid defensive performances. And in doing so, they will also close the door on their recent 9-4 loss to Columbus.