June 7, 2023

After starting the 2022-23 season with a 7-3-0 record, the Buffalo Sabres have lost three consecutive games and suddenly find themselves teetering just above .500. It’s been a baffling stretch for the team after such a strong start and the optimism surrounding them has vanished in the blink of an eye.

What has happened to cause this rapid change in fortune for the Sabres? Here are three factors that might be contributing.

Shooting, But Not Scoring

A problem the Sabres have had for years is being out-shot. The team has frequently been on the wrong end of a highly lopsided differential in that department, even in victory. Margins such as 40-21, 45-26 and 50-30 have been commonplace in their recent history, regardless of who has been on the ice and behind the bench.

To this point this season, it seems as if a solution has been found. The Sabres have been generating more shots while allowing less and it’s without question been a reason for their success. However, over the last three games, a new issue has emerged. The Sabres are struggling to convert their numerous chances and are leaving points off the scoreboard as a result.

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To be fair, the team’s offense has been very strong to start the season and has generated 3.85 goals per game, according to statmuse.com. But since the three-game slide has begun, too many quality chances have been squandered. If Buffalo wants to stop the bleeding, it will have to rediscover its scoring touch.

Comrie Struggling In First Starring Role

As many expected, Eric Comrie has become the Sabres’ number-one goaltender and has started nine of the team’s 13 games. However, while the 27-year-old hasn’t been atrocious, he hasn’t exactly impressed either. As of Nov. 8, his record stands at 4-5-0 with a 3.34 goals-against average and an .892 save percentage.

Eric Comrie Buffalo Sabres
Eric Comrie has underwhelmed in his introduction to the Sabres (Joshua Bessex/Getty Images).

In Comrie’s defense, this is the first time he’s served as a starting netminder after being a backup or less for every other team he’s played for. His struggles aren’t entirely surprising as he’s likely still adjusting to the weight of a full-time role. But it’s safe to assume the Sabres and fans alike were expecting more. His four victories to this point can largely be attributed to the Sabres’ strong output and he has allowed some very bad goals to get past him, as seen on Nov. 2 vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It’s far too early to judge Comrie either way, but the Sabres need their backstop to step up his game. There’s no reason at this point to believe he’s not capable of such, but the team may have to search for another option if that doesn’t happen.

Embarrassment vs. Arizona

Both of the previous two points were on full display in the Sabres’ matchup against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday at KeyBank Center. With the Coyotes entering the game with a 4-6-1 record, Buffalo was the clear favorite and recorded 33 shots on goal. But, somehow only one of those managed to get through against goaltender Karel Vejmelka, whom, let’s face it, the Sabres should have had no problem with. Comrie faced far less pressure but allowed three goals on just 23 shots, though to be fair the team in front of him didn’t provide much help.

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Expected to be the game where the Sabres got themselves back on track, it instead became the team’s worst loss of the season by far. Buffalo is expected to be a postseason contender this year, but that will not be the case if it continues to drop games to inferior opponents. Every team has such losses at some point, but it’s not an encouraging sign for a team that is trying to prove its worth.

Sabres Have to Right the Ship

The Sabres have been dealing with numerous injuries, especially to their defensive corps, which has definitely contributed to their slide. The three losses have to have been frustrating since they had largely been playing very well beforehand. But, one of the hallmarks of a good team is its ability to persevere, and the Sabres will have to find a way to do that quickly in order to keep the wheels on the wagon. They have their work cut out for them, however, as their next two games are against the red-hot Vegas Golden Knights and Boston Bruins, respectively.

This is the Sabres’ chance to show what they’re truly made of. Tonight’s game will be especially interesting as old friend Jack Eichel (15 points in 14 games) leads his 12-2-0 Golden Knights into town. It’s Eichel’s first appearance in Buffalo since his return last March, and judging by how that went, it’s sure to be a show one way or another.

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