If you’ve been watching the first 10 games of this Buffalo Sabres season, you’ve probably noticed: the team’s power play has been strong, and has improved immensely thus far from last season. Victor Olofsson, of course, has been a significant part of that rejuvenation. But just how good are the Sabres on the man advantage?
As of writing, the Sabres lead the NHL in power-play goals this season, with 12 - in just 10 games played. By percent, the Sabres have the fourth-best power play in the league, at 30.8 percent. That includes seven goals scored on home ice (tied with Boston).
Overall, the Sabres have had 39 power-play opportunities in this young season.
Olofsson is tied for the league lead in power-play goals, with Edmonton’s James Neal, and third in power-play points (7), behind Connor McDavid (9) and David Pastrnak (8). Rasmus Dahlin also has seven power-play points, all assists. So, too, does captain Jack Eichel, with three goals and four assists.
By and large, both as a team and at some individual levels, the Sabres are dominating on the man advantage. It’s impressive on its own, but it’s also impressive when comparing these results (in an admittedly-small sample size) to seasons past.
Last season, through 10 games, the Sabres were hitting 21.1 percent on the power play.
They were 16th in the league in that statistic and had eight power-play goals as a team. Conor Sheary led with three; Kyle Okposo had a pair, and Jason Pominville, Eichel and Rasmus Ristolainen each had one.
Olofsson, of course, wasn’t on the NHL team at that point, and his impact is too significant to diminish. Dahlin’s impact on the power play has also been telling. Eichel was leading the team in power play time (48:12), while Reinhart (41:08) and Ristolainen (40:11) were also up there.
Ristolainen has largely moved off the power play, at least the main unit, and Dahlin has seemingly slipped into that spot. Jeff Skinner and Olofsson are also seeing significant time on the man advantage, and it certainly appears to be working out well.
Of course, we also have to mention the other significant difference between this season and last: a new head coach. Ralph Krueger has put new systems in place and is running this team differently than Phil Housley did, and as a result, we’re seeing changes in many areas. The power play is just one of those.
Some suggest that the Sabres’ current 30.8 percent mark on the power play will eventually regress closer to 25 percent, and maybe that is the case in the end. But if players like Eichel, Skinner, Olofsson and Dahlin continue to see significant ice time on the man advantage, and can keep shaking things up and keep the puck moving (as the above NHL.com article notes, many of Olofsson’s goals came from a similar spot), there’s no telling just how good this power play unit can be. Olofsson isn’t just scoring on the power play, he’s shooting, too. His 15 power-play shots are near the top of the league, behind only Anthony Mantha (17 shots, 3 PPG) and Jonathan Marchessault (16 shots, 1 PPG).
At any rate, it’s certainly something to keep an eye on as the team moves forward - and other teams would do well to stay out of the box and limit the Sabres’ PP chances.