3) The goaltender situation
Consider that as of the All-Star break, the Sabres are 11th-best in the NHL, allowing 144 goals up to this point. (Extremely important, when considering the team has scored four less goals themselves.) This becomes more impressive, when factoring in the fact they’ve faced the eighth-most shots per game in the league, at an average of 32.6 per game.
The biggest question now is, who should be the main man between the pipes? At the start of the season it was understandably Hutton, with him coming off a career year.
However, after a fine start to the 2018-19 campaign, the 33-year-old is now in a slump which has seen him win only two of his previous 12 starts. As a result, he’s now on course for his worst save percentage in four seasons, as well as the poorest goals against average (GAA) of his career. (He only started one game in his first season in the league, in 2012-13.)
On the flip side, Ullmark has arguably been better than expected, with a 10-4-3 record in 18 starts. However, for all the credit coming his way, he still has a worse GAA average than Hutton, and this alludes to the real issue for the Sabres.
The reality is the defence is not playing well enough and a result, the two goalies are effectively being hung out to dry time and time again. This combo is good enough to get the team to the playoffs, but they still need more help from the players in front of them.
Hutton was never going to be as good as last season — it was unfair to believe he would after a career year — but at the same time there is definitely a place for Ullmark. Hutton is still the number one at this point, but we predict his backup will get a higher percentage of starts as the season progresses.