In the age of analytics, sometimes the graph reveals information the eyes don’t always catch. This is the case with Buffalo Sabres blueliner, Owen Power.
Far too often, I’ve seen varying takes on players regarding fans who are pro-analytics vs. those who are pro-eye-test. Rarely, however, do I see unbiased takes that tell us the eye-test isn’t always accurate, but also, analytics don’t tell the entire story.
A few days ago, JP Gambatese of The Hockey Writers broke down what we saw from Buffalo Sabres blueliner Owen Power – a mostly up season as opposed to one particular cluster of his analytics, which weren’t too hot, to say the least. But instead of writing a piece telling us that Power isn’t as good as we all think, they instead broke down why a particular portion of Power’s analytics looked so bad.
I’ve recently gotten more interested in checking out the graphs, so naturally, Gambatese’s piece caught my attention. But I’m not one who gravitates 100% toward them, nor do I always trust my eyes – that would be reckless. Instead, I like to use a bit of both, so it was refreshing to see Gambatese’s fair breakdown regarding Power’s rookie season.
What gave the Buffalo Sabres rookie such poor analytics in 2022-23?
Gambatese pointed out that Power’s puck retrieval wasn’t the issue, but the zone entries were bad. One look at the chart (see the link to their piece near the end of this section) shows us that they were beyond bad.
But Gambatese may have a potential answer for this and, spoiler alert, you should have seen this one coming. They referred to a particular goal in a game between the Sabres and the Florida Panthers, and the following quote from Gambatese strongly implies this was no outlier.
"“In this clip, Power’s partner, Henri Jokiharju (who spent the most time with Power of any of his partners), gets roped in by Carter Verhaege, and puck-watches to the extreme in an attempt to get the puck away from the Panthers forward. In doing so, Jokiharju opens up a route for Sam Bennett to creep back into the center of the ice, where it’s much too late for Power to try and recover before Bennett scores on the high-danger chance. “Power, there, did mostly everything right. He tried to put himself in the passing lane between Bennett and Verhaege with the assumption that his partner would be in the right spot to break up the potential second pass if the puck were to go past Power. When it did, Jokijarju panicked and it cost the Sabres a goal against. This is exactly the type of play that I saw time and again with Power on the ice.” – via The Hockey Writers"
Source: Sabres’ Owen Power: Analytics vs. the Eye Test by JP Gambatese, The Hockey Writers
They also pointed to Power’s deployment, which saw Power’s defensive zone faceoffs reach the 56.6% mark, a number that the possession metrics via Hockey-Reference confirms, often against an opponent’s best overall players. Naturally, this would make life tough for Power and his usual sidekick, Jokiharju, as the quote above indicated.