Turbulence with the East’s best wild card contenders is a Buffalo Sabres power play in Week 15

The Buffalo Sabres are on a two-game “power play,” and they need to convert not once, but twice to cut their deficit.
Jan 11, 2024; Buffalo, New York, USA;  Ottawa Senators defenseman Jakob Chychrun (6) knocks the puck
Jan 11, 2024; Buffalo, New York, USA; Ottawa Senators defenseman Jakob Chychrun (6) knocks the puck / Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Sabres power play may be awful in 2023-24, but perhaps a metaphoric power play will work in their favor. Last night, the Detroit Red Wings beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are now riding a four-game losing streak. The latest loss dropped the Leafs back down to a wild card with 50 points, and they are slumping. 

It’s also worth noting that the Leafs are not as good as their 50 points show. This is a team that often needs an extra period to win, confirmed by their 13 W’s in regulation. By contrast, the Sabres have 17 of them, two of which came this year against Toronto. But it isn’t just the Leafs and their losing streak working in the Sabres favor. 

The New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils, two contenders who seemed for a minute to have gotten things right, are on a combined three and two-game losing streak respectively. Meanwhile, the ticky-tacky Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals are the better teams right now in the standings, and will play into the Sabres hands if two things happen this week.

Tonight, the Blue and Gold play their makeup game vs. the Chicago Blackhawks, and it’s a contest they can’t lose. Chicago has had trouble scoring all month, and the Sabres can put this one away early with a fast start and three solid stanzas. 

Buffalo Sabres are on the power play, but they must convert

While the Montreal Canadiens have pulled ahead of the Blue and Gold by three points, they are not so much that the Buffalo Sabres must worry about as much as the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have 49 points and have won three straight. However, they can’t say the same for their recent outings against Buffalo, which plays into this power play the Sabres have if the Blue and Gold win tonight. 

Of course, the Sabres also have plenty of favorable matchups for the rest of the month, so things will be more than looking up if they cap off the week with a pair of wins. Tampa has one more game this week before they play Buffalo vs. the Minnesota Wild. So even if they have 51 points heading into Saturday’s matchup and Buffalo wins, 46 points and a five-point deficit is more than manageable at this stage if the Sabres also beat the Blackhawks.

Sure, the other teams, like the Devils, Islanders, Penguins, and Capitals need to lose and remain turbulent themselves as only Pittsburgh has been the hot team lately in this bunch. But if the Buffalo Sabres can take advantage of what they can control, they won’t remain an unmanageable distance behind their Eastern Conference peers in the wild card race.


(Information provided by ESPN.com)