The Buffalo Bills will face the Pittsburgh Steelers in a close-town rivalry that the Sabres and Penguins embarked on this weekend. Now, Buffalo Hockey Now cannot speak fully to the NFL, but the Sabres showed some qualities on Saturday that the Buffalo Bills can certainly take to heart.
The difference-maker from the hockey version of Buffalo and Pittsburgh was at the most important position in the game – Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. The Buffalo Bills will likely need quarterback Josh Allen to be their best player as well. The Steelers defense is no joke, just as the Penguins offense was pouring it on the Finnish netminder.
What’s the equivalency of 40 saves on 41 shots?
Something similar to Josh Allen’s 30 completions on 38 attempts in Week 18 is comparable.
Don Granato and his coaching staff made the biggest difference in the hockey game Saturday. Overturned calls on two separate challenges proved too much for the Penguins to overcome. The communication, preparation, and attention to detail from everyone involved in the review process paid off in a big way.
Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott will need to prepare his staff for much of the same against Pittsburgh, as in-game situations are often the difference in close games in the NFL. Are the Bills more talented than the Steelers? Sure, but it’ll take a cohesive effort to win a playoff game.
Buffalo Pittsburgh Rivalry
Buffalo and Pittsburgh are only a little over three hours away by car, and there’s been a bit a of rivalry brewing between the two cities in both the NFL and NHL. Many Bills fans will remember the 2019 game in Pittsburgh thanks to Matt Barkley and Ed Oliver during the “Renegade” song.
— Matt Barkley (@MattBarkley) December 16, 2019
The hubris has sparked some animosity between the Bills and Steelers. The Bills went on to win that game and the ensuing matchup the following season in Buffalo. The Steelers responded with a Week 1 upset of the Bills in 2021. The Bills then trounced the Steelers in 2022.
Meanwhile in the NHL, Peyton Krebs seems determined to make enemies out of each Penguins superstar one by one. In their October 6th preseason tilt, a Krebs hit on Kris Letang was enough to get Sidney Crosby to drop the gloves.
Crosby takes exception to Letang getting hit and drops the gloves with Krebs! 😤 pic.twitter.com/iqmMhBpZeX
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 7, 2023
Then in their first regular season matchup, Letang decided to take matters into his own hands in a scrum and go after Krebs. He certainly did not hold back any punches as they went to the ice.
A scrum leads to Krebs getting sucker punched by Letang pic.twitter.com/BQ2y6H8AYx
— Crossing Swords ⚔️ (@CrossSwordsPod) November 25, 2023
It was joked later on that perhaps Evgeni Malkin was next.
Opportunistic Against Pittsburgh
On Saturday, the Sabres displayed that even when the bounces can go your way you need to capitalize on your opportunities. Luukkonen held them in the game, coaches challenges were spot-on, and still nothing was decided until Rasmus Dahlin sealed the game with an empty-netter.
The Buffalo Bills will need to take this to heart when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit Sunday. Winning six out of seven and coming into the playoffs red-hot will mean nothing if they don’t take care of the team in front of them. Mason Rudolph has exceeded expectations since taking over, but let’s face it – the Steelers are a stepping stone to reaching a much bigger goal.
If the Bills are able to capitalize on opportunity like the Sabres did, then we should see a “W” next to Buffalo and an “L” next to Pittsburgh like on the NHL schedule from Saturday.