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Power play issues haunting Sabres

Six shorthanded goals against has Buffalo’s coaches searching for answers

Nearly a month into the season and it’s evident that this Sabres squad needs a lot of work. With a 3-6-2 record through 11 games, Buffalo is going to have to figure out areas to improve in, and there’s one clear option.

The Sabres have been burned on the power play all season long, and it’s definitely a contributing factor to collecting just eight points out of a possible 22.

Last season, assistant coach Bob Woods played a big role in helping the power play unit, which finished first in the league with a conversion rate of 24.5 percent. They didn’t have many opportunities – their 233 was 23rd in the league — but they made them count. 

With wholesale coaching changes made during the offseason, Woods was one of the coaches not retained. He is currently an assistant for the Minnesota Wild, but it appears the Sabres are missing his presence. The team has scored on just 13.9 percent of its’ power plays this season, putting them at 26th in the league. 

If you’ve watched any of the games this year, perhaps you’ve noticed the tremendous difficulty Buffalo has getting into the offensive zone with the man advantage. Teams are setting up and just waiting, and have a seemingly easy time getting control of the puck and firing it down the ice. 

It’s something that may have gone overlooked this offseason. A No. 1 power play unit should be able to continue with the same players from year to year, right? Well, so far it’s looking like that is not the case.

Despite those struggles, there’s one glaring statistic that is an even bigger issue. The Sabres have somehow managed to give up six shorthanded goals. Take a moment to let that sink in.

There have been 32 shorthanded goals scored this season, with nearly 19 percent coming against Buffalo. There are 13 teams that haven’t allowed one at all this season. The Sabres have five power play goals this year, but have allowed six with the man advantage.

“I think we’ve just got to mentally be a lot sharper. It’s little things, breakout passes, not executing on our breakouts. When you don’t do that, you’re not going to have very good entries. I think that’s where it starts and we need to find ways to gain possession in their zone.” – Evander Kane

On the other side, the Sabres are near the middle of the pack, with a penalty kill percentage of 82.9 percent that puts them in a tie for 11th in the league. 

When a team isn’t doing well, it’s easy to point to areas that are lacking, and this is just one of many. We’ve seen the Sabres show signs of improvement, though, with two wins in the last three games. 

If they can find a way to clean up the power play, it would be another step in the right direction. Until that happens, it’s difficult to envision them finding the win column on a consistent basis.

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