The Buffalo Sabres power play remains a work in progress this season, but they can take advantage of the Devils weak penalty kill unit tonight.
The New Jersey Devils have the NHL’s best power play unit, converting 42.31 percent of their chances so far in 2023-24. One big reason behind it is Jack Hughes, who has 17 points in just six games, and nine when Jersey finds itself on the man advantage.
While the Buffalo Sabres have a strong penalty kill that ranks seventh in the league at 88.89 percent, they need to keep themselves from playing shorthanded as much as possible. But they also need to bait the Devils into committing penalties, as Jersey’s 70.83 percent penalty kill is the sixth-worst in the league.
Winning the special teams battle by limiting New Jersey’s chances on the man advantage while creating plenty of their own despite the weak 13.04 conversion percentage on the man advantage is the best thing Buffalo can do tonight to win. Especially now, since the Blue and Gold’s power play has been more productive over the past two games, converting two of their last seven attempts.
Buffalo Sabres will win tonight if they can win the special teams battle
In seven contests this season, the Sabres have gone on the penalty kill nearly four times per game, so logistically, they will be facing Jersey’s high-octane man advantage at some point. But if they simply limit Jersey’s chances, then it will force the Devils to try and score on their less-than-stellar 5-on-5 game.
Even with Hughes scoring all over the place, they are averaging just a 6.9 shooting percentage. With nine measly goals scored at 5-on-5, they are averaging roughly 1.5 per game so far in the category. Jersey is good at forging high-danger chances, so the Buffalo Sabres need to limit them in that regard, and create their own chances with their top two lines that seem to be clicking.
At 5-on-5, it’s also worth noting that Jersey’s save percentage is just 0.910, with a low PDO of 97.4. So the Blue and Gold could once again put up some goals if they a) keep Jersey off the man advantage, b) convert their own power play opportunities, and c) get plenty of shots on net in all situations.
(Statistics and data provided by Hockey-Reference)