The Buffalo Sabres dropped another game to the Vegas Golden Knights and are going through another November slump. The on-ice product has not looked nearly as good as it did at the start of the season, and a significant part of that is because of the defense. Now, the Sabres are currently working through key defensive injuries to Mattias Samuelsson and Henri Jokiharju, and they will need much more out of their young defenders if they want to win games. But of all the young defenders, the pressure is mounting on Owen Power the most.
Rasmus Dahlin went down with an injury for a short time, and Power stepped up and looked spectacular during that stretch. He has had a lot of growing pains from the start of the season, but overall, he has looked good. He plays a solid transition game and gets the puck moving up ice very well, but the problem is that he does not do much with it once the puck is in the offensive zone. His inexperience is his biggest enemy right now, and he makes passes and decisions that can leave people scratching their heads. In order to get him really going this season, he needs more confidence to make plays with the puck rather than assuming someone else will do it for him.
Power Needs to Shoot More
It really is that simple. Power needs to shoot the puck a lot more than he has since this season started. In 2021-22, when he came up for a few games at the end of the year, he was making a lot of great plays and creating offense when Dahlin wasn’t on the ice. This season, he’s been hesitant and keeps looking for the perfect pass instead of just taking a good shot on goal. Granted, when he does pass the puck successfully and isn’t forcing it through, it looks effortless, just like it did on this Victor Olofsson goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Power’s vision with the puck is elite, and he has the capacity to do so much more than he currently is. While the passes he can make are fantastic, he has not utilized his shot nearly enough. There would be a massive difference in the Sabres’ offense if he were a primary shooting factor. Dahlin has become one, and that has opened up more opportunities for other players to score when he passes. Power could be doing the same if he actually put the puck on net. To this point, he has registered only 18 shots in 13 games and has yet to score a single time. If he adds shooting to his game now, the long-term benefits will be great for himself and the Sabres.
Power’s Mistakes Are Expected but Can Be Mitigated
Mistakes are to be expected from any player, especially a rookie. Power has played on the Sabres’ top-2 pairings exclusively since making his way to the NHL, and the pressure that brings each night is immense. He is constantly seeing some of the best players in the league and is tasked with shutting them down. Since Jokiharju’s injury, Power has played primarily with Jacob Bryson and Kale Clague, and while neither of those players is up to his skill level, they both have been serviceable replacements for Jokiharju during that time.
Power needs a partner that he can rely on to stay back in the play while he takes the puck up ice. If he has the confidence that there would not be a breakaway in the other direction when he loses the puck in transition, then his decision-making would be more definitive. A better partner for him right now would be the likes of Ilya Lyubushkin. Both are large intimidating defenders, but Lyubushkin is much more physical and defensively responsible. Coach Don Granato continues to shuffle lines and defensive pairings as the Sabres navigate their current three-game skid, so this would be a perfect opportunity to settle Power in with another defender that will stay back and let him use his talents to make plays up ice.
The Biggest Adjustment That Power Can Make
The NHL has gotten progressively faster and bigger as the years have gone on, but the physical aspect has been lost a bit along the way. Power needs to add more physicality to his game so the players he is defending against want to challenge him less. He stands at a towering 6-foot-6 and is 218 pounds, so he has the size. But this season, he has only thrown nine hits. With an average of less than one per game, it leaves a lot to be desired from Buffalo’s end and a lot less to fear from the opposing end.
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He does not need to be laying other players out like in the old-time hockey sense, but he could be using his size more to his advantage beyond just having a longer reach. It would be better for his game if he took a stand against more of the players he is matched up against each night, whether it’s from a net-front battle in the defensive zone or a hit along the boards in the neutral zone.
Power needs to add much more of a physical element to his game considering his size, or he will end up like former Sabre, Tyler Myers. Myers had the size and reach to be a top defender in the NHL and even won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 2010, but he never panned out like he could have because he refused to use his size to be physical. Now he is just an average-tier defender who stands at 6-foot-8 and can get knocked off the puck just as easily as someone half his size. Power cannot fall into that category because if he does, his career will not be as illustrious as he hopes, and he will get pushed around as the league continues to evolve.