Forget about slow starts and giving up early goals; the main culprit behind the Sabres’ current four-game losing streak is dreadful special teams.
Some of those losses could read very different in their record had their power play functioned like it did earlier this season. Going in to the game against the San Jose Sharks just a little over a week ago, the Sabres had scored on the power play 13 different times in their opening 16 games. Scoring 13 power play goals on 52 chances meant that the Sabres were finding success with the man advantage at well over 20% of the time, which had been among the very best rates in the NHL.
The last four games have provided a totally different outcome. Buffalo has scored just one power play goal in the last four outings, even though they’ve been given 13 opportunities with the man advantage.
They haven’t just been 5-on-4 situations. In each game, the Sabres had found themselves at some point with an extended 5-on-3 advantage, and yet they have absolutely nothing to show for it on the stat sheets.
When you have Jack Eichel, Tyler Ennis, Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane, Matt Moulson, and Sam Reinhart on your team, there’s no reason any club should be stumbling on golden opportunities like those.
The other side of this depressing coin is the Sabres penalty kill. The Sabres’ opposition found the back of the net four times while on the power play during this stretch, including that back breaking—inexplicable—five-minute major that Ennis took against the St. Louis Blues for cross checking.
Their rough stretch may be starting to get to some of the players, too, if last night’s game in Dallas was any indication. The Sabres found themselves having to kill off penalties five times against the Stars, essentially half a period spent hemmed in their own zone trying desperately to find off greater numbers from a Dallas squad that is an offensive powerhouse.