An opportunity is brewing for the Buffalo Sabres special teams this Saturday

We are almost one full month into the new calendar year, and the Buffalo Sabres special teams have continued to improve since the puck dropped on January 2nd.
Jan 24, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Kings right wing Alex Laferriere (78)
Jan 24, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Kings right wing Alex Laferriere (78) / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Through the first 25 days of 2024, the Buffalo Sabres penalty kill has allowed just four goals on 31 attempts, good for an 87.1 percent success rate. They remain second in the Eastern Conference in the category for January, and their 19.4 percent power play percentage, though still not ideal, ranks toward the middle of the NHL.

Meanwhile, the San Jose Sharks continue to struggle both on the man advantage and the penalty kill. Overall, they have converted just one power play goal this month and are standing at a measly five percent conversion rate, which is by far the worst in hockey throughout the calendar year. 

San Jose has also been successful just 60.7 percent of the time on the penalty kill, which is also the worst in hockey by a substantial margin. Therefore, if the Sabres want their special teams to keep their upward trend going, Saturday’s matinee against the Sharks is a good place to keep building momentum.

Golden opportunity awaits the Buffalo Sabres special teams on Saturday

While the Sabres special teams continue to experience mishaps and have struggled through dysfunctional stretches, their overall performance in 2024 indicates they should have no trouble handling San Jose’s special teams units. Special teams also give the Sabres their best chance to win tomorrow afternoon, given the Sharks better-than-advertised play at 5-on-5. 

This season, San Jose is boasting a 0.913 save percentage, which stands just 0.06 percentage points lower than the NHL average. While their actual goals allowed metric sits at 124, which is 29 above league average, their expected goals allowed is 123.1, further showing us they are at least somewhat efficient when not on special teams. 

The Buffalo Sabres have drawn quite a few penalties lately, and while their power play unit still isn’t where it needs to be even in this calendar year, it’s been better and it can continue to find its way against the Sharks. But, they can’t afford to mishandle the puck, send errant passes to one another, and fail to gain puck retrievals to wear down San Jose’s penalty kill unit. 

A golden opportunity awaits the Sabres, but it’s up to them to take advantage of it in the final game before the All-Star Break. 


(Information provided by Hockey-Reference and QuantHockey)