Why the Sabres' Goaltending Might Hold Them Back This Season
By Patrick Hoffman
I know that we still have a long way to go before the season to starts and that a lot can happen with the remaining UFA's, trades, etc.
With that said, and I hate to be negative about any NHL club, especially when the season has not even started, I do not think the Buffalo Sabres are going to take any real steps forward this year, at least in terms of their on-ice product. Again, it's obviously too early to tell, but let me tell you why this team will be inconsistent this season.
The main reason why the Sabres may still struggle this season is because of their goaltending. Last season, the club was 24th in the league in goals-allowed as they gave up 268 goals, which means they allowed at least three goals per game last season.
While that statistic can't fully be blamed on the team's goaltenders, it was certainly a glaring number and one that kept them out of the postseason. You need both consistent and more than decent goaltending in order to help get a team into the playoffs and unfortunately for the Sabres, that did not happen.
Last summer in July of 2018, the Sabres signed Hutton as a UFA. They thought he would provide consistent goaltending because of the success he had at his previous stops in the NHL.
Unfortunately for both Hutton and the Sabres, things didn't turn out that way. Hutton, 33, finished the season with anm 18-25-5 record to go along with a 3.00 goals-against average, a .908 save percentage, and no shutouts.
The high goals-against average and somewhat low save percentage was something that hurt the club last season. More often than not, he was unable to come up with the big save when his team needed one, which is usually one of the differences in a team missing the playoffs and a team making the playoffs.
Hutton's backup, Linus Ullmark, wasn't much better. Ullmark, 25, finished the season with a 15-14-5 record to go along with a 3.11 goals-against average, a .905 save percentage, and two shutouts.
While Ullmark is still a young goaltender, many had hoped he would take a big step last year and prove that he could be the team's starting netminder of the future. That clearly did not happen.
While fans may be excited about a new head coach in Ralph Krueger, a healthy offense, and a clean slate, their goaltending will be one of the deciding factors whether this team makes the playoffs or not.
If I am a Sabres fan, I am not thrilled about that.
Patrick covers the NHL for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave.
He has previously covered the league for WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.