Seth Appert needed just two games to figure out what’s plaguing the Buffalo Sabres offensive woes

Buffalo Sabres interim coach Seth Appert knows how this team can manage a few more goals against even the league’s better goaltenders.

Dec 31 2023; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens (24) skates with the puck in
Dec 31 2023; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens (24) skates with the puck in / Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

With Don Granato unable to coach this weekend thanks to an illness, Seth Appert stepped in and led the Buffalo Sabres to a 1-1-0 record. The Blue and Gold didn’t convert well in either contest, and they ended up getting outscored 7-4 over the weekend in a pair of games that came against the two worst teams in the East.

Despite the big win on Saturday, Buffalo should not have struggled against goaltenders Daniil Tarasov and Anton Forsberg, but once again, is this anything new? They’ve faced plenty of backup goaltenders and played poorly enough with the puck that many of these netminders put on season-best performances, or at least close to. 

But the interim coach seems to know a thing or two about how the Blue and Gold can convert, and the full-time head coach would probably echo these words. So what did he say following the game? Something the Sabres need to adopt immediately to avoid further embarrassment of playing pedestrian hockey against backups.

""We need more guys living around the net, especially if you are fighting it a little bit or gripping the stick a little if you haven't scored as much as you think as you should. Goals go in around the blue paint. You get rewarded for going there and that's where majority of goals need to be scored from.""

Seth Appert

Source: Observations: Sabres bid adieu to 2023 with dreary loss in Ottawa by Mike Harrington, Buffalo News

Buffalo Sabres interim coach gives a reason for invading the crease

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this topic in 2023-24. In fact, the lack of crashing the net was one of three major reasons they lost to Boston last week. And I initially glanced at Appert’s quote and looked away, thinking it added little value. But that last part, when he talks about the rewards for invading the blue paint, that’s something new that the Sabres need to hear time and again from multiple coaches until the message sinks in. 

Sure, highlight-reel goals like the incredible one-timer or a defenseman scoring from long-range happen. But think about the number of goals Buffalo allowed this season because opponents created chaos around the net. The Sabres themselves have done this on occasion and yielded fantastic results, so it’s not like this is a totally unknown concept to them even if it’s inconsistent.

And it’s not like they don’t have players who can handle this. You know Zach Benson and Jordan Greenway love hanging out in front of the net, and it’s one reason Benson is part of this hockey team at such a young age. Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch have the size and strength to get up there, as does Dylan Cozens. 

Now that it’s 2024, the Buffalo Sabres can add surrounding the crease to their growing list of New Year’s Resolutions. If they can, you can expect a different team this calendar year, but the burning question is this: Will the message at last sink in for this young hockey team?