2023 Buffalo Sabres Predictions with Futures Odds and Expert NHL Picks
Summary of last season
The Sabres were right on the edge of a postseason appearance last season as they would finish with 91 points, tied with the Penguins as the first ones out, finishing just one point behind the eventual Eastern Conference representative in the Florida Panthers. Oddly enough, Buffalo struggled at home, finishing with a 17-20-4 record in front of their fans. They did get hot down the stretch, and finished 9-2-1 (19 points), making them seem like a fringe playoff team. But, hey, we all regress to the mean, so we should see just how competitive they can be in 2023/24.
Tage Thompson turned in an incredible season for Buffalo as the young RW would go on to lead the team with 94 points (47 G and 47 A). Jeff Skinner was a nice compliment to Thompson as the LW finished with 82 points (35 G and 47 A). However, their netminding was a big red flag and was widely responsible for their postseason absence. Between four goalies, Buffalo allowed 3.62 GA/G with an abysmal .896 SV%.
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Seasons come and go, so now its time to take a look at what we can expect from the Buffalo Sabres in 2023-24:
Buffalo had two big under the radar signings in D Erik Johnson and D Connor Clifton. Clifton finished last season with only 23 points but played in 78 games for a Bruins team that was maybe the best team ever. His veteran presence should give depth at the blueline and help their woeful goalie performance.
With no significant losses, this offense should repeat as one of the best units on the ice.
Tage Thompson – Thompson will have to put his team on his back once again this season if they want to crack the playoffs. He heads up an incredible first line for Buffalo, a line that will have to keep the pressure on when on the ice in order to compensate for any mishaps from their goalies.
Rasmus Dahlin – Dahlin finished fourth on the team, behind his three first line skaters, as the blueliner tallied 15 G and 58 A. Dahlin would finish 6th in points among the leagues defensemen and that will be counted on again this season. Buffalo didn’t lose much, but what they added seems to be defensive-centric, the top performers last season will need to repeat or improve this upcoming season.
Goalies – more on that below
This will likely be more of a committee early on until someone sticks. Devon Levi looks to be the starter for now, and rightfully so as the 21-year-old Canadien was the best option last year playing in seven games and going 5-2 allowing less than three goals a game. Eric Comrie and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen are back as well for the Sabres and will get the call if the young Levi struggles. With Levi being unproven and the latter two options having proved to be disappointing last year, this unit of netminders is an incredible X-factor for the team’s performance. It’s a safe assumption that if these goalies can improve from really bad to just bad or better, Buffalo can make a run.
The expectation in Buffalo is to make the playoffs this season and with a weaker Atlantic Division on the horizon, it looks like they will get a good shot at getting in. Boston and Tampa Bay are still playoff teams, but don’t look as strong as in years past while the Panthers hot streak should have cooled incredibly over the offseason. It’s quite possible both EC WC come from the Atlantic Division, and Buffalo should be one of those teams.
Buffalo can turn themselves into a legitimate playoff team if they can strengthen their netminding. A trade for Flyers’ Carter Hart could do the trick. This team was one of the best scoring teams in the league and will likely repeat their success. They have two under the radar additions in D Erik Johnson and Connor Clifton.
Over 92.5 on the team point total
Key Schedule Stretches
February 21st – March 7th- The Sabres will play six out of nine games in this stretch on the road. The first two games of this stretch are not key because of a good opponent but key in the sense of Buffalo needing to win the easier games if they want to secure a playoff berth. Those two games will be trips to Montreal and Colombus. They need to win those two on the road, because the other four road trips in this stretch include Florida, Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Nashville. The three home games will not be kind as they are set to host Vegas, Winnipeg, and Carolina. Buffalo will be battle tested in this stretch, right before the final playoff push.
Stanley Cup Champions - +3500
Conference Winner - +1700
Division Winner - +900
To Make the Playoffs – Yes -120
Hart Award – Tage Thompson +2500
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