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