Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
Prior to defenseman Zach Bogosian stepping on the ice for the first time this season, the Sabres blueline didn't look complete. Not that it does right now as there are still holes to fill, especially now that Mark Pysyk is sidelined because of injury, but adding a No. 2/3 minute-eater helps solidify things up-top on defense.
"To have [Josh] Gorges and Risto (Rasmus Ristolainen) as a pair, Zach and Jake [McCabe] as a pair, it increases our ability to skate and play at that [top-level] speed," said head coach Dan Bylsma to the media on Wednesday prior to the Dallas Stars game.
Bylsma didn't hesitate giving Bogosian minutes upon his return. In his first game since April and against the western conference-leading Dallas Stars, he skated 21:03, second amongst defenseman to Ristolainen's 22:09 and last night Bogosian's 23:43 TOI trailed only Risto's 26:51 in their shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues.
What wasn't mentioned by Bylsma about Bogosian's presence is how he will probably be helping out the penalty kill. Before the Stars game the Sabres were 28th in the league with a 75% kill rate (11/44.) The top pairing on the PK remains intact with Ristolainen and Gorges but Bogosian bumps Cody Franson out of the picture and now slips into the second PK-unit with McCabe. After watching Franson screen his own goalie for the Blues' second powerplay goal of the night, I was left to wonder why Franson was even out there on the penalty kill.
The Sabres have allowed 13 goals against while shorthanded and these are the number of goals scored while each of the top-five penalty-killing d-men were on the ice (Bogosian and his two games excluded) along with the total penalty kill minutes played by each:
Ristolainen--6 goals...47:19 PK TOI
Franson is on the ice for a PK goal-against almost every two minutes. Ristolainen who leads the team in PK TOI is on the ice for a goal every (approximately) four minutes. McCabe a goal every 11 minutes or so.
Simple math, simple numbers.
In a crucial five-minute kill thanks to a boarding major by Tyler Ennis, Sabres in-game host Brian Duff pointed out that Bogosian skated 2:45 of it. And after the Blues scored just :34 into the major penalty, Bogosian had a shift of 1:45, took a :37 break then followed up with another :45 shift. St. Louis was held to only one goal.
The only other Buffalo penalty of the game was McCabe's two-minute hooking minor. With him in the box, Franson was forced into PK duty and soon the Blues had their second goal of the game. One :22 PK shift by Franson, one goal.
Although this isn't a knock against Franson, as he was signed by GM Tim Murray to be more of a powerplay specialist, one should question why he was on the PK more than a player like Pysyk who's forte is smart, defensive work.
That said, with Bogosian back in the lineup, Franson's number probably won't be called for PK duty as long as the d-corps is healthy. Which is a good thing.
It should also be pointed out , however, that the PK unit dropped a notch to 29th in the league with a 72.9% kill rate since Bogosian's return two games ago.