Why early returns aren’t promising for Sabres under Housley

It was supposed to be, at least, a little bit different for the Buffalo Sabres this year.

First-year general manager Jason Botterill has a potential franchise player to build around in Jack Eichel, who signed a big-time contract extension and is admittedly sick of losing. There's also plenty of complimentary talent to work with - particularly up front - and this team seemed capable of challenging for a playoff spot.

But problems on defense and in net still remain, and until those are addressed, the Sabres do not seem poised to be any better under new head coach Phil Housley than in the Dan Bylsma era.

Here's a few examples of why that's the case.

Dominated by Canucks

To be perfectly frank, a home game against a Vancouver Canucks team that was defeated handily the night before should be a gimme for good teams. The Sabres did jump out to an early lead, and held a 2-1 advantage after 20 minutes, but were soundly outplayed over the remaining two periods.

The above chart gives us a scope of the shot attempt differential, and the Canucks - who aren't projected to be a playoff team this season - ended up with a 41-22 advantage in terms of shots on goal.

In fairness, the Sabres were denied on an offside review that could have disallowed the eventual game-winning goal, but in the end, the loss was well-deserved.

Power play is a mess

Friday's game was the eighth of Buffalo's season, and a shorthanded goal scored by Derek Dorsett was the sixth allowed by the Sabres in that span.

Additionally, the Sabres have scored only five goals on the man advantage.

To be clear, Buffalo is being outscored 6-5 while on the power play.

Simply unheard of.

Defense needs serious work

Housley was brought in by way of the Nashville Predators in an effort to replicate a defensively sound, up-tempo brand of hockey. The problem is, the personnel just isn't in place to make it happen, especially on the blue line.

For Friday's game, Housley deployed a defense corps made up of Rasmus Ristolainen, Marco Scandella, Matt Tennyson, Jake McCabe, Victor Antipin, and Nathan Beaulieu. That's about as far as you can get from what the Predators roll out on any given night, and even still with Zach Bogosian and Justin Falk healthy and in the lineup.

The top pair logged 28:37 and 26:36 of ice time, respectively, and it's important to remember Ristolainen is just shy of his 23rd birthday, while Scandella ranked fifth in average ice time among Minnesota Wild defensemen last season. That's not what you want anchoring your blue line.

It also doesn't help that the Sabres' team save percentage ranks near the very bottom of the NHL, with a tandem of Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson just not getting it done.

It's still early, but it appears as though the 1-5-2 Sabres remain a work in progress.

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Ovechkin moves into 1st on all-time OT goals list

Move over Jaromir Jagr, you have some company atop the all-time overtime goals list, as Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin made a little bit of history Friday.

Ovi buried a nasty one-timer to lift the Caps past the Red Wings. The goal was the 20th OT marker of his career, moving him into first place on the all-time list.

Here is tonight's historic game-winner:

To say Ovechkin has been on a decent tear would be the understatement of the new season, as No. 8 has been en fuego, netting 10 goals across the first nine games of the campaign.

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Twitter reacts to yet another controversial offside review

Another night, another controversial offside review in the NHL.

Hours after the league admitted an overturned goal from Thursday's action should have counted, the Buffalo Sabres appeared to have been on the wrong end of another challenge.

The goal was scored by Daniel Sedin, on a play where it appeared as though Jake Virtanen was clearly offside.

The Sabres challenged the call, resulting in a lengthy review.

The call on the ice of a good goal was eventually upheld, much to Sabres head coach Phil Housley's dismay.

Here's a sample of the reaction on Twitter:

For the record, here's the official explanation from the NHL:

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Linesman, NHL Hockey Operations staff confirmed that Vancouver's Jake Virtanen had possession and control of the puck as he entered the attacking zone prior to the goal. According to Rule 83.1, "a player actually controlling the puck who shall cross the line ahead of the puck shall not be considered 'off-side,' provided he had possession and control of the puck prior to his skates crossing the blue line."

Therefore the original call stands - good goal Vancouver Canucks.

The explanation, however, did not help.

Clearly there's still some work to do with these reviews.

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Red Wings, Athanasiou come to terms on 1-year deal

The Detroit Red Wings agreed to terms with winger Andreas Athanasiou on Friday to a one-year deal, the club announced. The contract is worth a reported $1.3875 million, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie.

Detroit and AA had been apart on dollar figure, with the latest reports indicating the Wings were willing to offer the forward two years at $3.8 million, which Athanasiou's camp apparently balked at.

In order for the deal to be officially completed, Detroit must do some roster shuffling to come in under the salary cap, as McKenzie points out the club would not be cap compliant if the deal were to be inked today.

Athanasiou's contract saga had been one of the more talked-about storylines of the NHL's offseason, and until Ken Holland and Co. can work some magic with their lineup, expect it to drag on a little while longer.

McKenzie also notes the team will be looking to make a move in the coming days in an attempt to dump salary, and that a potential deal could involve Riley Sheahan and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are currently looking to add depth up the middle.

AA finished the 2016-17 campaign with 29 points in 64 games, and could be practicing with the team as early as next week if Detroit can quickly sort out its current cap crunch dilemma.

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Canucks’ Gudbranson suspended 1 game for boarding Bruins’ Vatrano

Vancouver Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson has been suspended one game for boarding Boston Bruins forward Frank Vatrano, the NHL Department of Player Safety announced Friday.

The incident occurred 6:13 into the first period of Thursday night's game. Gudbranson was assessed a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct. The Bruins would go on to score three times while forward Jake Virtanen served the penalty.

Vatrano escaped serious injury and remained in the game.

Gudbranson's suspension means he will miss Friday's game against the Buffalo Sabres, but will be eligible to return on Sunday when the Canucks visit the Detroit Red Wings.

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Report: Red Wings, Athanasiou closing in on deal

The stalemate between Andreas Athanasiou and the Detroit Red Wings is reportedly nearing a conclusion.

The two sides are closing in on an agreement, an NHL source told The Athletic's Craig Custance.

Athanasiou is a restricted free agent who failed to come to terms with the Red Wings over the summer. He's missed the first seven games of the regular season while negotiating.

The forward's camp and the team had several conversations this week, including a conference call that included both Athanasiou and head coach Jeff Blashill, according to Custance.

He'll apparently be promised a top-nine role with regular time on both the power play and penalty kill, along with an increase in overall ice time.

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Report: NHL admits mistake on offside review that wiped out Avalanche goal

It likely won't be much consolation for the Colorado Avalanche, but the NHL has reportedly admitted a Colorado goal it nullified should have been allowed to stand.

The league acknowledged and explained its error to TSN's Pierre LeBrun on Friday.

Here's the play, if you haven't seen it:

(Courtesy: NHL.com)

So, what would have been the tying marker for the Avalanche and Mikko Rantanen was challenged by the St. Louis Blues, who felt Sven Andrighetto was offside before the goal was scored.

The NHL's video room in Toronto overturned the call on the ice, citing the fact that Andrighetto was offside.

However, the league later realized that since he wasn't ruled offside by the linesman on the spot - as he should have been - there was technically a second zone entry, and the rule book states that goals can't be nullified based on a subsequent entry into the zone, according to LeBrun.

Had the NHL realized that at the time, the goal would have counted and the Blues would have been assessed a minor penalty as a result of the failed offside challenge.

St. Louis held on for a 4-3 victory Thursday night.

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Betting odds favor Maple Leafs to win Stanley Cup

It's been 50 years, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are pegged to be this season's Stanley Cup winners - at least according to oddsmakers.

Bodog released its updated 2018 Stanley Cup odds and the Maple Leafs are leading the pack at 8-1 odds. The team hasn't hoisted the Cup since 1967 - a fact its fans are well aware of.

The red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning are right on Toronto's heels, while the Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, and Pittsburgh Penguins aren't far behind.

Here's the full list:

Teams Odds
Maple Leafs 8-1
Lightning 9-1
Blackhawks 12-1
Oilers 12-1
Penguins 12-1
Ducks 14-1
Blues 14-1
Capitals 14-1
Blue Jackets 20-1
Stars 20-1
Kings 20-1
Wild 20-1
Predators 20-1
Rangers 22-1
Flames 22-1
Sharks 25-1
Bruins 33-1
Golden Knights 33-1
Senators 33-1
Canadiens 33-1
Red Wings 40-1
Devils 40-1
Flyers 40-1
Hurricanes 50-1
Panthers 50-1
Islanders 50-1
Jets 50-1
Avalanche 66-1
Sabres 100-1
Canucks 100-1
Coyotes 200-1

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Pacioretty blames self for Canadiens’ slow start: ‘I’m the worst one on the ice’

Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty prefers to lead by example, but he hasn't done a great job of that to begin the season.

The club has an Eastern Conference-worst 1-5-1 record, and Pacioretty has shouldered much of the blame, admitting his play has made it hard to rally teammates.

"That is the challenge … how am I going to go tell my teammates that we got to be better when I’m the worst one on the ice," said Pacioretty, according to Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette. "That's what keeps you up at night … that's what keeps me up at night. Trust me, if you guys think I don’t care you got it all wrong. If anything, I think too much and I care too much."

Related - Debate: Is it time for the Canadiens to panic?

Since the 2013-14 season, only Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Joe Pavelski have more goals than Pacioretty's 142. He's well aware that goal-scoring is his greatest asset - even though he has just one goal through seven games - and is why he suggests the best way to get his team back on track is to start scoring goals.

"I'm worried about my game personally, but numbers-wise I know I help the team by scoring goals and by producing offence and I know it’s not there and I take full responsibility for that every time that that’s the case," Paciorety said. "But no one's going to get me or the team out of this other than myself and ourselves."

Luckily for the Canadiens, time is on their side. With 75 games remaining, more than 91 percent of the regular season is still to be played, but the fact remains, the deeper the hole, the higher they'll need to climb.

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Breaking down McDavid’s mind-boggling spin-o-rama assist

Connor McDavid's highlight-reel assist was ridiculous, but it needs to be broken down frame by frame to be fully appreciated.

The reigning Hart Trophy winner pulled off a jaw-dropping, spinning pass to Patrick Maroon for an easy tap-in goal late in the first period of the Edmonton Oilers' overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night, and he embarrassed a couple of respectable defensemen in the process.

Duncan Keith was the primary victim of McDavid's mastery, and Brent Seabrook also had a primo seat for the spectacle, making the play all the more impressive.

Let's take a look at exactly how he did it.

It begins with Oilers forward Kailer Yamamoto controlling the puck along the boards and eyeing McDavid up the middle.

Yamamoto feeds McDavid, who carries the puck out of the Oilers' defensive zone.

As McDavid enters the offensive zone, he's met by Keith, with Seabrook backing him up while also monitoring Maroon.

Let's switch to the aerial view now, because this is where the fun really begins.

McDavid has a step on Keith, so Seabrook comes over to provide help.

The Oilers superstar turns his back to Keith and protects the puck.

McDavid continues pivoting with Keith squaring him up, while Maroon quietly sneaks down low with his defender preoccupied.

Suddenly, McDavid swings the puck out behind both his body and Keith's imposing frame.

Then, in the blink of an eye, he flings the puck across the crease to Maroon, who has a virtually wide-open cage.

Maroon taps in one of the easiest goals he'll ever score.

Let's zoom in for another look, because we can.

It's hard to believe McDavid found his way out of this.

Keith and Seabrook look like they have him boxed in.

But that's when McDavid's body control and uncanny hands separate him, literally, from the competition.

There's no way Keith saw this coming.

Maroon is barely even in the picture, but somehow, McDavid knows he'll be there.

And he is.

Too easy.

There was nothing simple about McDavid's tremendous effort to set up the goal, though.

The MVP made something out of nothing and single-handedly created what will certainly be remembered as one of the plays of the season.

(Images courtesy: NHL.com)

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