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We Need to Talk About the Sabres’ Power Play

Dec 23, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Mattias Samuelsson (23) attempted a wrap a round on New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Abysmal. Deplorable. Ghastly. Reprehensible.

All words that can describe the Buffalo Sabres’ power play this season.

The latest example of the Sabres’ pure ineptitude on the advantage came in Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins. Buffalo went 0-for-6 on the power play. At one particularly chaotic point of the game, they had a 4-on-3 opportunity, followed immediately by another 4-on-3, wrapped up by a 5-on-3. During that entire sequence, they registered exactly zero shots on goal.


Let that sink in for a minute. It’s brutal, on top of an already brutal power play system that’s shown itself this season. Whatever system they’ve cooked up under Matt Ellis’ leadership is clearly not working. In 9:32 of power play time on Wednesday, they managed five shots on goal and no goals. It’s more than a one-game sample, too. Their power play is firing at just 13.3 percent this season, tied for fifth-worst in the league.

Over the last 32:07 of power play time the Sabres have had – covering games dating back to December 13, a period of two weeks – they have managed two goals and 24 shots on goal in 19 opportunities. Their overall power play in the month of December is the second-worst in the NHL during that time period, at 10.3 percent. Only the Flyers (7.4 percent) have fared worse. (Stats accurate as of Thursday afternoon.)

Something has to give. What will it be?

If you follow along on Sabres Twitter (X), there’s a vocal group calling for someone besides Ellis to run the power play. My question is – who? Is there someone else in the organization that would be a better fit? And if we’re going to go with the line of thinking that says “Ellis didn’t spend much time on the power play while in the NHL, so he shouldn’t be running the power play,” …. well, Granato never played in the NHL, so he shouldn’t be coaching in the NHL, following that logic.*

* I don’t necessarily subscribe to or follow that logic, but it’s the same line of thinking. Personally, I don’t know if Ellis’ lack of power play time while in the NHL has anything to do with his abilities to coach such, just as Granato’s lack of NHL experience may have nothing to do with his ability to coach such. Bruce Cassidy played all of 36 NHL games in his day, but he’s been a successful head coach. My point is, it’s not that cut and dry. But I digress.

The point is this: something has to give. Aside from the power play, though that is a part of it, the Sabres are losing all their steam and falling apart at the seams. Playoff hopes are growing ever-distant. Fans are discouraged, frustrated, angry.

Fixing the power play won’t fix everything, but it’s a damn good place to start.

Talking Points