Buffalo Sabres 2017/18 season preview: Goalies

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 2: Robin Lehner
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 2: Robin Lehner /

Do the Buffalo Sabres have what it takes to finally get back into the playoffs?  Tip of the Tower starts their season preview for the club, with a focus on the goalies.

The revamped Buffalo Sabres will look to hit the ground running to start off the new season. With the additions of Phil Housley, Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella, they aim to end a six-year playoff drought.

However, any attempts to achieve this, will begin with the men between the pipes. Let’s take a look at who the Sabres have to rely on in goal:

Robin Lehner

Lehner certainly had his work cut out for him last season.  The 26-year-old posted a 23-26-8 record with a 2.68 GAA and a .920 save percentage.

The Swede set career highs with 59 games played, 23 wins and two shutouts. As a result of what seemed like a successful season for Lehner, the Sabres front office rewarded him with a one-year, $4 million contract.

Standing at 6 foot 4, Lehner has the ability to look big in net while making a wide variety of saves.

Lehner did have his rough patches last season. His weakness seemed to be in the shootout, where he did not stop a single opportunity.

The shootout can be the difference when trying to make the playoffs. Lehner needs to improve in this area, especially as the expected starter.

Overall, Lehner should expect another near 60-game season.  He should feel the pressure as his one-year deal seems to be a “show me” type contract.  Also, there’s the constant pressure from both Linus Ullmark and Chad Johnson, who will both look to surpass Lehner on the depth chart.

Chad Johnson

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Johnson returned to Buffalo this past summer, on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million.  He spent last season with his hometown team Calgary Flames.  The six-foot-three goalie put up an 18-15-1 record with a .910 save percentage and a 2.59 GAA.

It’s most likely the Calgary native will start the season as a back-up to Lehner.  But Johnson is used to handling a good portion of games, so he could end up splitting games, just as he did last season with Brian Elliott.

Linus Ullmark

Ullmark spent a majority of his time with the Rochester Americans last season.  He started in 55 games, notching a 26-27-2-1 record.

The Swede put up a .909 save percentage and a 2.87 GAA last season. Ullmark also signed a contract with the Sabres, agreeing to a two-year $1.5 million deal.

The 24-year-old will likely start his season with the Amerks, but look to him as more of a fringe player for Buffalo this season, who have had their fair share of goalie scares before. Ullmark would be the next in line to earn his shot with the Sabres.

Next: Sabres still want to see more from Girgensons

Can this combination of goalies get the Buffalo Sabres back into the playoffs? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!