Do the Sabres Rely on Special Teams?

We all know that special teams are a real big part of winning hockey games.  We also know the Buffalo Sabres were pretty good last year on the power play and the penalty kill.  At one point late in the season the Sabres were in the top five in both categories.  They eventually finished seventh on the power play and 14th on the penalty kill.

I decided to dig a little bit deeper into these numbers and figure out how the power play helped determine the outcome of games.  I was surprised to see just how much the Sabres relied upon their power play.  The Sabres earned only 16 points in 24 games where their opponent scored more power play goals than they did.

Follow the jump to see more stats...

 

 

PP Goal Margin Record Pts  # Games
3 1-0-0 2 1
2 10-1-1 21 12
1 11-6-1 23 18
E 12-12-3 27 27
-1 6-9-2 14 17
-2 1-5-0 2 6
-3 0-1-0 0 1

 

You can see that the Sabres put up a much better record when they outscore their opponent on the power play. This is to be expected but it is the bottom half of the chart that separates the best teams from the teams that miss the playoffs. 

Buffalo scored more power play goals than their opponents a total of 31 times this season and earned 46 points during those games.  They earned only 43 points in the other 51 games they played this season.  Special teams and namely the power play were the only reason the Sabres were even close to the playoffs this season.  It's not a surprise that the special teams faltered at the end of the season and the Sabres fell out of the playoff race.

For arguments sake I have taken a look at some other teams breakdown to compare to the Sabres.  The Boston Bruins were the best team in the Eastern Conference and therefore should be a good gauge of what a good team will look like.

 

PP Goal Margin Record Pts  # Games
3
2 12-0-0 24 12
1 15-1-1 31 17
E 20-9-4 44 33
-1 5-6-4 14 15
-2 1-3-1 3 5
-3

 

The Bruins are very good when they score more power play goals than their opponents but their record when power play goals are even is what jumps off the page.

Here is a look at the Detroit Red Wings power play goal breakdown...

PP Goal Margin Record Pts  # Games
4 1-0-0 2 1
3 1-0-0 2 1
2 9-0-2 20 11
1 12-3-2 26 17
E 19-6-3 41 28
-1 9-11-2 20 20
-2 0-1-0 0 1
-3 1-0-0 2 1

 

The Red Wings follow suit with the Boston Bruins by beating their opponents when the power play goal margin is even. 

Is it possible that I have been wrong all along and this team is not as good as I have been saying they are?  Do they really rely on special teams as much as the charts show they do? 

Having a good special teams will always be important but the Sabres need to be better at even strength.  This has been the downfall of this team the past couple of seasons and should be an area of focus for the coaching staff as they get ready for training camp.

The numbers above look only at power play goals and we know the Sabres had a pretty good power play last season.  The Sabres penalty killing was pretty good last as well.  They finished 14th in the league but once again that doesn't show you how it affected the teams record.

 

PP Opp Margin Record Pts  # Games
4 3-4-1 7 8
3 4-2-1 9 7
2 9-6-0 18 15
1 2-4-0 4 6
E 6-6-3 15 15
-1 4-4-1 9 9
-2 7-2-0 14 9
-3 4-2-1 9 7
-4 2-2-2 6 6

 

This chart was designed to show you the difference in power play opportunities.  The Sabres had a wining record last season when their opponents had more power play opportunities than they did.  That doesn't happen without good penalty killing.

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