Owen Power had an electric performance against the Lightning in the absence of Rasmus Dahlin
LID Fla. – Two key things we all need to understand and remember about Owen Power: He doesn’t turn 20 for another two weeks and Saturday’s loss at Tampa Bay was just his 20th NHL game.
No, it wasn’t his 200th game, even if he looks and plays like it.
The Sabers’ defensive injury situation is the worst we’ve seen since the 2006 nightmare in Carolina, and it got even murkier when we suddenly learned that Rasmus Dahlin couldn’t answer the buzzer on Saturday after the adjust i drink friday in raleigh.
(Memo to Jesperi Kotkaniemi: Fighting is allowed. You want to go, drop the gloves. Crushing an unsuspecting opponent with leather is weak. You hope the Sabers don’t forget that.)
When Power first joined the Sabers in April out of the University of Michigan, it was a Sunday in Tampa. Coach Don Granato had him take the ice for an optional morning skate and many players took it with him just to meet the highly touted draft pick and say hello. It wasn’t until two nights later in Toronto Power made his NHL debut.
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Power watches all kinds of hockey, so you know his eyes were set on the Stanley Cup Finals in June, the third straight time the Tampa Bay Lightning played for hockey’s top prize. The Bolts lost him, of course, in Colorado, but aside from departed free agent Ondrej Palat, their entire veteran forward corps is back.
The Buffalo Sabers lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night, 5-3, dropping games on back-to-back nights on their southern road swing. It was a noble effort in very adverse conditions, which made the result that much more stressful.
The power was undaunted Saturday, playing 28 minutes, 14 seconds. He had two assists, a plus-1 rating and six hits in the game. Look deeper and Power’s performance was even more amazing.
According to Natural Stat Trick, the Sabers had 73.2% of their shot attempts (30-11), 76% of their scoring chances (22-7) and 75% of their high-danger chances (9-3) when Power was on the ice at 5-on-5. That accounted for 23:58 of his ice time, playing mostly against Tampa’s best forwards in front of the usual Amalie Arena crowd. incredible
“Obviously I’m tired, but I think it was kind of a good challenge for me to do that and hopefully we can build on that,” Power said. “Obviously, they’re an experienced team that’s tough to play against. I think it’s been good for me to play those big minutes and get more comfortable in the league.”
“He’s a hell of a player, a hell of a talented kid. And he handled it in this building,” Granato said. “He didn’t get to play in this building last year because it was his first day with us and I thought he would be ready to play today based on that. And he certainly was. The environment didn’t affect him one bit just one hit. A little bit. And I can’t say that for all the guys on the team. It was amazing how they played tonight and how focused they were.”
Power’s determination to be better away from the puck, combined with the work he does on the ice and in the video room, led to his best performance to date on Wednesday night. Not only did Power make a highlight reel pass to set up the tying goal, but he helped shut out the Pittsburgh Penguins in the third period and finished with 23:51 of ice time.
Those kind of Power-eating minutes are speeding up his entire development plan. Rest assured there was no place on the Sabres’ bingo card for this season that Power would be their No. 2 defenseman in early November, nor would he be playing on a top pairing before Thanksgiving. But when injuries hit for the first time with Henri Jokiharju going down in Calgary, Power’s minutes began to increase. And when Mattias Samuelsson and Ilya Lyubushkin went down, there wasn’t much choice.
Power was 25:27 in Vancouver and 24:04 in Seattle, and then 23:54 in the homecoming game against Montreal, a game where struggled to a minus-3 rating playing alongside Dahlin.
That pairing was too much about the offense, so Granato left it after one game and Power has found a home next to Kale Clague in the last five. The last three games really stand out. Power has four assists and a plus-4 against Pittsburgh, Carolina and Tampa Bay, with his ice times at 23:51, 24:43 and 28:14 on Saturday, respectively. That included 10:39 of the third period Saturday.
Sure, Power had some moments against the Lightning as most defensemen do, most notably when Brayden Point spun him in circles to set up a second-period scoring chance that Eric Comrie put away. But Power was mostly safe in his own end and was a beast with the puck in the neutral zone and in Tampa’s backcourt. The last three games are a capsule of what kind of stud the Sabers could have on their blue line for many years, exactly what you’d expect from a No. 1 overall pick.
For the season, Power entered Sunday ranked 30th in the NHL in average ice time at 23:09, while Dahlin was fifth at 25:54. Among rookies, Power is the runaway leader by more than two minutes. Next up is Kaiden Guhle of Montreal at 20:56, and only Guhle and Jordan Harris of Montreal (20:47) are even better than 19:07. Power is tied for second in rookie scoring with seven points and tied for the lead in assists (7).
Now comes another massive week for the Power and the Sabres. After hosting Arizona on Tuesday, and not ruling out the Coyotes after beating Florida on Tuesday and winning at Washington on Saturday, the Sabers entertain Jack Eichel-led Vegas on Thursday and Boston on Saturday. These are just the two best teams in the NHL.
The Sabers were free on Sunday and Dahlin’s uncertain status will be the No. 1 topic at practice Monday.
“I think it’s been good for me to play those big minutes and get more comfortable in the league,” Power said. “It’s not ideal for the injured guys and for the team, but I think it’s a good opportunity.”
“You’re conscious and aware of not giving them too much work that could jeopardize their confidence,” Granato said. “He makes mistakes and it can take him a while to recover, but I don’t worry about him in this category because he has such a high IQ combined with skill. That’s hockey. It’s the NHL, but it’s hockey and he knows hockey. . . so it’s a good fit.”
When the anniversary of Eichel’s trade came around on Friday, there was talk of all kinds of where-you-were-when moments. Granato had reporters in stitches explaining how Kevyn Adams had him keep the news from his assistant coaches and Alex Tuch explained that he was at home in Las Vegas with his injury when his phone rang.
Peyton Krebs was with the Golden Knights in Ottawa preparing for a game that night against the Senators when his world changed.
“I went to bed at 10:30, like a normal sleep, and woke up at 5 a.m. to three missed calls from (Vegas GM) Kelly McCrimmon,” Krebs told me Friday in Carolina. “I called my dad and said, ‘Yo, it’s 5 in the morning, should I call him?’ I was nervous. I didn’t want to call the CEO at 5 in the morning. My dad said, “Just call him. I’m sure if he calls at that time it’s something big. So I called him and he said, ‘Me.’ I’m sure you’ve seen the news.” Well, I just woke up and I hadn’t seen anything.”
See who is ranked first and where the Sabers land this week.
Krebs, however, knew his name had been floating around in a deal with Eichel if Vegas could get involved.
“I knew we were in the mix, but I didn’t know how much,” Krebs said. “I really think the whole league just wanted this trade to be done so that it was over and I was just a part of it. It seems to have worked out really well for both sides.”
In fact, Eichel enters Tuesday’s game in Toronto with five goals, 14 points and a plus-10 mark in his 11 games and word is that his 200-foot game is growing under coach Bruce Cassidy, as as happened during his Top-10. Hart Trophy season in Buffalo in 2019-20.
Alex Tuch fits into this team so perfectly it feels like he’s been there for years, writes Mike Harrington.
Tuch and Thompson in silence during the trip
It was a quiet two games for Tuch, who didn’t have a shot on goal in either Carolina or Tampa. And Tage Thompson found out that after a six-point game and 11 points in three games, you’re really going to get a lot more attention on and off the ice.
After Wednesday’s morning skate against Pittsburgh, Thompson was cornered in the hallway outside the locker room by TNT announcers Brendan Burke and Darren Pang, and Pittsburgh voices Steve Mears and Bob Errey. After the 6-3 victory, Thompson was the player who went national with the TNT studio group.
The big man will join Dahlin in getting his name and number right on opponents’ white boards. In the two games in the South, Thompson combined for a secondary assist, had just six shots on goal and was minus-2. Granato cut his ice time to just 4:47 in the third period Saturday.
“Tage, I don’t think it was his normal Tage,” Granato said. “You know these guys, you see these guys. I heard other guys were going, I traded (Jeff) Skinner for (Dylan) Cozens. I thought ‘Skinny’ was going and I thought it might be a boost. And obviously they scored early. after. I brought Tage back in and he finished harder, pushed harder. He’s been hot. I don’t think he felt like he’s felt lately and that happens.”
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