An unlucky 13 looms on the Buffalo Sabres halfway through the 2023-24 season

The Buffalo Sabres have reached the halfway point of their 2023-24 season and they look like the NHL’s most dysfunctional group instead of a playoff-bound squad.

Jan 9, 2024; Buffalo, New York, USA;  Buffalo Sabres center Peyton Krebs (19) waits for the face-off
Jan 9, 2024; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Peyton Krebs (19) waits for the face-off / Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
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The magic number for the Buffalo Sabres at the midway point of the 2023 season is 13 - that’s how many years it will be since the Blue and Gold last made the playoffs if they keep up their ultra-mediocre ways between now and mid-April. Through 41 games, this team is 17-20-4, putting themselves on pace for a meager 34-40-8 record, good for just 76 points, 15 fewer than last year. 

We can probably name 13 things the Sabres must do if they plan on busting through their playoff drought, one of which is to start consistently crowding the net, something they did for a while in tonight’s loss to the Seattle Kraken. Unfortunately for Buffalo, that strategy got away from them and it’s one reason they didn’t score again following Alex Tuch’s goal early in the second frame. 

It would also serve them well to force opponents away from the crease when they’re stuck in the defensive zone, or how about winning puck battles more consistently? You know, it would also be great if someone simply deflected the puck to prevent an easy breakaway, something they allowed at least three times tonight. 

Buffalo Sabres officially halfway to 13 straight years with no playoff berth

Or how about when they’re driving the puck toward the net to just shoot it instead of passing it to the outside? It was something JJ Peterka did tonight when for some odd reason, he thought it was a good idea to relay the puck to Dylan Cozens, and he wasn’t the only one. 

Early in the game, the Buffalo Sabres did a fine job of preventing second and third chances, only for that to evaporate for the final 50 minutes. They blocked several shots early, and that also stopped as the game wore on. 

Special teams were abysmal on both sides of the ice - again. The Sabres logged over 35 shots on goal and scored just two all game - again. And they once again played as though NHL games lasted between 10 and 20 minutes instead of 60 - again.

All of the above issues aren’t just exclusive to tonight, as they have been going on all season. If the Blue and Gold want to play meaningful games in March for the second year running, their second half of 2023-24 cannot be anything less than a night and day difference from the first half of this disappointing season. 

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(Statistics provided by NHL.com)