A slow start would be unacceptable for the Buffalo Sabres vs. the Blackhawks

The Buffalo Sabres put up three goals in their shutout win on Monday afternoon, but yet another slow start nearly cost them.

Nov 19, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (1) stops a
Nov 19, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (1) stops a / Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports
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All season, the Buffalo Sabres fell victim to slow starts, and they barely found the net early and ran up the score on opponents. The Blue and Gold have been one of the worst teams in hockey during the first stanza, and that trend continued on Monday vs. the San Jose Sharks. 

It was unacceptable then, but now they’re facing the Blackhawks, arguably the NHL’s most injury-riddled team that has just 28 points on the season. Chicago also ranks 31st in goals for with 99, or 2.25 per game. They also have allowed 159 goals on the year with an average of 3.61 per game, putting them 30th in the league.

The Blackhawks have also scored multiple goals in a game just three times this calendar year, and they have been outscored 22 to 12 in 2024. Do the math, and they are averaging 1.5 goals per game since January 2nd, and much of this has come thanks to injuries to key players like Connor Bedard, Nick Foligno, and Tyler Johnson, among others. 

Buffalo Sabres can’t afford a slow start vs. one of the NHL’s worst teams

It’s also worth noting that the Blackhawks played last night and traveled to Buffalo. Therefore, they were originally the latter half of back-to-back, but they may still be rather exhausted following their duel with the Sharks that went into a shootout despite the game now commencing tomorrow night.

With all of the above factors in mind, the Buffalo Sabres cannot afford a slow start on Thursday. They are playing one of the worst teams in hockey that may have the weakest lineup in the league at the moment, and a team that’s had to travel into the Eastern Time Zone following their win vs. San Jose. 

Tomorrow night, the Sabres must put a lot of pressure on the Blackhawks, force turnovers early, take shots at the net, and get guys in front of the crease to generate second and third chances. There are absolutely no excuses to have anything but a stellar start with at least a goal to show for it in the first frame, and ideally more. 

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(Statistics and information provided by Hockey-Reference)