Penalties, penalties, penalties. It’s what all Sabre fans have been talking about in the aftermath of Saturday’s penalty filled game 2 loss in Philadelphia. Just when you thought giving the Flyers five power plays in the series opener was playing with fire, the Sabres threw the proverbial gas can on the fire in game two as Philadelphia had 10 power play chances. I was tired just watching the Sabres penalty killers continuously skate onto the ice. Imagine how they felt!
Buffalo has been shorthanded 41% of the time(25 minutes) through the first two games. 18 minor penalties have produced 15 Flyers power plays including three different two man advantages totaling two and a half minutes. The Sabres are spending way too much time on defense. To use a football analogy, this would be when the offense keeps going three and out or keeps turning the ball over. The defense is on the field way too much and at some point they’re going to break.
Not only has that put extra pressure on the penalty killers and Ryan Miller, it also keeps some of the main offensive threats off the ice. Through the two games, Thomas Vanek is averaging 15 minutes of ice time, down two minutes from his regular season average. Brad Boyes is down three minutes on the average while Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe are down four minutes a game. Gerbe, who was a second half of the season spark, played just six and a half minutes on Saturday, the lowest total amongst the Sabres.
It would also help if the second line contributed when they are on the ice. Ennis, Boyes and Drew Stafford have just one point, a power play assist from Stafford. Actually the trio was slumping at the end of the regular season and it has carried over. Ennis has just one goal in his last 12 games, the worst stretch of the season for him. Boyes, who had five goals in his first 10 games as a Sabre, has none in the last 11. Stafford has scored a goal in just three of his last 17 games. He has nothing to show for nine shots on goal against the Flyers and Stafford had the best shooting percentage on the Sabres during the regular season.