“Where’s Owen Power?”
If someone asks this question about a rookie forward, that’s bad news. No one wants to be invisible on their NHL debut, but when it takes an extra second or two to identify a 6-foot-6, 213-pound defenseman playing his first shifts in his home market, with hundreds of friends and family in attendance…that’s actually great news.
It’s not that 19-year-old Power went unnoticed in his debut game. Let’s get things straight. It was that he was so poised, so silent in his movements that it was often impossible to distinguish him from his veteran teammates. Luckily he had the imposing frame and #25 we could identify him with.
Power is obviously more experienced than your average freshman. He’s played high leverage hockey for Canada at the World Junior Championship, World Championship and Winter Olympics, and just played in the Frozen Four with the University of Michigan last week. Maybe that’s why, despite the spotlight in his hometown, his heart rate stabilized so quickly.
“There are nerves on the first shift, but once you’re fully into it and the second time you play a regular shift, it’s just hockey,” Power said.
Just hockey? In your first game in the NHL? In one of the most suffocating media environments in sport?
Now it’s balance. It’s reminiscent of a line from Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Departed”: “Your heart rate is down, and your hand? Steady.”
Power’s teammates immediately recognized the steady hand.
“Oh yeah, calm down,” right winger Alex Tuch said. “Right away, there’s no panic in his game. It looks like he’s been in the league for 10 years already in his first game. Played very well defensively on 2-on-1 early on and had very good offensive plays moving the puck very well, sees the ice very well. It seems like a really easy game for him, so it was a lot of fun to play with him, and he’s a really good kid, so it’s really good to be part of his first NHL game.
Perhaps that’s why Sabers coach Don Granato felt good throwing Power over the boards to take on, out of all lines, the Michael Bunting/Auston Matthews/Mitch trio. Marner. The Sabers held them off the scoresheet in a 4-1 win at Scotiabank Arena. The power enveloped Matthews and thwarted what was shaping up to be a scoring chance on a 2-on-1 run in the first period. In 7:37 with Power against Matthews at 5-5, the Sabers maintained an even 5-5 shot attempt ratio, and the Sabers outscored the Leafs 1-0.
“Just solid – I think his hockey IQ is obvious,” Matthews said after Tuesday’s game. “He’s not the flashiest guy, but he looked like he fit in. He didn’t look like a rookie playing his first game. He was really stable.
Power obviously has an offensive advantage in his game, but he admitted to being measured in his decision making on Tuesday. He describes himself as much as possible as someone “who loves to go”, but he has noticeably refrained from pinching on a few occasions and has chosen a strategy of staying at home. The ability to pick up the pace will show up soon enough, but what should instill confidence in Sabers fans for the start is serenity. The power was so efficient and quiet there. He seemed to make the right decision with the puck every time.
“Honestly, I had no anxiety with him because I watched him play so much,” Granato told reporters on Tuesday. “He’s the No. 1 pick overall, an elite player, so he’s got such calmness to him, such presence to him. You see his ability to slow down the game around him. I observed that in him, that presence in him, for so long. I just knew he would get a feel for the rhythm right away.
“He has such a good sense of the game, time and space, (and) that’s why he’s calm. So the game is less stressful for him than for others who see games and situations as He’ll jump over the boards and see patterns, pick up patterns, like all top athletes do in any sport, and he looked comfortable as a result.
The idea of a commanding, calming presence on ‘D’, who as many have pointed out resembles Clark Kent when he wears glasses in his street clothes, just seems to represent the dawn of a new day in Buffalo. The Sabers already had a positive trend before Power turned pro, of course, despite missing the playoffs for an NHL-record 11and straight season. Their point percentage has gone from .390 last season to .433 this season. They hold a competitive record of 11-7-3 over their last 21 games. Frontline center Hulking Tage Thompson has established himself as one of the league’s best marksmen, burying 33 goals in 71 games while forging exciting chemistry with revival Jeff Skinner and Vegas import Tuch . Center Peyton Krebs, who joined Tuch from the Golden Knights in a trade with Jack Eichel, is established as a full-time NHLer. And, more importantly, post-hype phenom Rasmus Dahlin is starting to find his game. Much like other famous first-round great defenders who came before him, from Chris Pronger to Ed Jovanovski to Victor Hedman, Dahlin is flourishing. late to reestablish its soaring ceiling after hitting a plateau in its previous two seasons. His numbers for the full 2021-22 season don’t paint the whole picture. Since Feb. 1, with Dahlin on the ice, the Sabers have held noticeable advantages over their opponents in 5-on-5 shots and attempted shots while roughly breaking even in scoring chances and attempted shots. high risk. He’s only 22 years old and with nine games left, he’s already set career highs in goals (10) and points (46).
Power singles out Dahlin as an ideal mentor, which makes sense considering they’re the first two D-men to be No. 1 overall picks and teammates in NHL history. But Power, with his bizarre maturity, can help Dahlin just as much. Power’s calming effect on his teammates was evident on the first night, which theoretically should have introduced him to his most nervous. He represents a step forward in the maturity of a young Buffalo D-body that has seen progress from Henri Jokiharju, another slow-cooked first-round pick, and Mattias Samuelsson.
Does that mean Buffalo is ending the playoff drought at 11 next season? That’s still a tall order considering how violent the top half of the Atlantic Division is. But with Power’s presence almost acting as a team sedative, it’s a safe bet we’ll see the Sabers continue to improve and prove themselves comfortable in important games. It’s a beginning.