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Special. Teams. Matter.

November 15, 2019, 3:28 PM ET [171 Comments]
Michael Pachla
Buffalo Sabres Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

Yes, we know. A vast majority of an NHL game is typically played 5-on-5. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out. However, in a hockey world where parity is the norm, when the a powerplay is awarded, it's up to that team to capitalize on it and, conversely, when a team is on the penalty kill it's imperative that the shorthanded team prevent a goal. Unfortunately for the Buffalo Sabres, they haven't been scoring on the powerplay and they haven't been getting the job done on the kill either.

"Specialty teams did decide the result again today," said Buffalo head coach Ralph Krueger as his team dropped a second consecutive game to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2019 Global Series last Saturday. "Definitely our powerplay let us down as did our PK this weekend."

Krueger's Sabres dropped Game-1 vs. Tampa 3-2 and lost 5-3 the next night. Buffalo went 0/2 with the man advantage in each of those games while the Tampa Bay went a combined 3/7 on their powerplay opportunities (1/4 in the first game, 2/3 in the second game.) Fast forward to last night's 5-4 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes and Krueger's words once again resoundingly rang true. The Sabres went 0/3 with the man advantage while the 'Canes scored on two of their three oppoprtunities.

With the loss last night the Sabres are now winless in their last six games (0-4-2) with every game save for the 6-1 loss to the Washington Capitals and the two-goal loss to Tampa being one-goal affairs. They lost in the shootout to the Arizona Coyotes and in overtime last night, in the other game they were shut out by the Islanders 1-0.

Specialty teams are very much situational opportunities to grab or thwart momentum and for the Sabres Krueger has said time and again that the offense feeds off of their powerplay and having it go 1/14 (7.1%) in their last six games (0/10 in their last four) pretty much explains why Buffalo is 0-4-2 during that span while scoring a total of 12 goals. The other part of the equation is Buffalo's penalty kill where in those six games, the opposition scored six goals on 14 powerplay opportunities leaving the Sabres with a paltry 57.1% kill-rate.

For a team that has had trouble scoring a struggling powerplay is problematic and for a team that's mired in an 0-4-2 slump, preventing as many goals is equally important. Regardless what the analytics community might think or believe, special teams matter. Especially to this Buffalo Sabres team right now.

And with that, I yield back my remaining time.
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