This season the Buffalo Sabres have been criticized for many things ranging from the Head Coach, to the GM, to the players lacking passion. One of the most unwarranted complaints is about the Sabres goaltenders. No, Robin Lehner isn’t Dominik Hasek and no, Anders Nilsson is not Ryan Miller, but they form a suitable duo.
It seems like a lot of the dissatisfaction with our goaltenders has more to do with how we acquired them instead of their actual play on the ice. When something goes wrong on the ice the goalies are the easiest to blame because of this. We can’t fault Robin Lehner because Tim Murray decided he was worth a first and we can’t fault Anders Nilsson for Tim Murray believing he was the better option at backup than Chad Johnson. However fans need to separate the two.
Statistically speaking the Sabres goaltenders are around average to a little above average. While the Sabres are 15th in the NHL in goals against per game at 2.66 goals, they are the 3rd worst team in shots against per game with 32.9. According to Sporting Charts, the Sabres are 5th in the league in team save percentage with a .919 save percentage. Individually Robin Lehner has a 9-12-5 record, a 2.53 GAA, and a .921 SV%, which is around league average. Anders Nilsson has a 7-4-4 record, a 2.41 GAA, and a .928 SV% which is 5th in the NHL.
The Sabres goaltenders are keeping the Sabres in games but half the time it seems our offense can’t get going in time. Slow starts have hurt the Sabres and it shows in the standings. When the Sabres have scored two or more goals though they have a record of 16-3-5. Even Evander Kane said it
“It must be a joke floating around the league: You score two goals against the Buffalo Sabres and you’re going to win the hockey game.”
When Evander Kane said this they were coming off a 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in mid-November and were still missing Jack Eichel. In the time Eichel was out the Sabres record was 7-9-5. In the 20 games since the Sabres record is 9-7-4.
Although its only a slight improvement in the standings, you can see that when the Sabres are scoring more they will win. Our goaltenders will keep us in games for the rest of the year. It is on Dan Bylsma and the players now. They need to come into games flying right away. With the second half of the year starting tonight, every game matters. They need to bury early and finish games.
Goaltending hasn’t been the issue and going down the stretch it shouldn’t be either. If you disagree you might have to watch out for Robin Lehner…..
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