Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo
The Sabres are getting killed on the penalty kill and power play, and the fact that they're taking too many penalties in general isn't helping them any.
The Buffalo Sabres are not (currently) a good hockey team, and there are many reasons why. The reason we're looking at today is the fact that this team takes too many penalties against, and is terrible at capitalizing on the power play.
The Sabres take too many penalties to be a good hockey team. Whether you believe that statement to be true or not, consider this - the Sabres have taken 84 penalties against, third most in the league behind Philadelphia and Montreal. "But wait", you say, "they've done much more fighting this year, so many of those are major penalties that take players from each team off the ice".
Very astute observation, young grasshopper, but even if you wiped all their major penalties off the board, the Sabres would still have the seventh most penalties against in the NHL. Their PK was great last night against Ottawa, going 8-for-8 with a man down. But how much of that time could be better spent in the offensive zone? How much do those penalty kills wear down your PK crew, depriving them of energy in the third period?
The Sabres power play has fared no better this year. The blue and gold currently rank 26th in the NHL on the powerplay at 13.5%. Take away the three power play goals they scored in the season opener against Philly, and the Sabres would be one of the three worst teams in the league with the man advantage.
What makes that percentage even worse is that the Sabres have actually had a quite a large number of power play opportunities this year - 52 to be exact, good for 11th in the NHL. To have that many opportunities for with that small a conversion percentage, especially discounting the large number of goals in the first game, is simply pathetic.
There are many things the Sabres need to do better in order to contend for a playoff spot - and despite this awful start, they're still right in it in the East - but they need to turn things around on special teams, and do so quickly, before they fall too far behind in the playoff race.