In today’s sports landscape the game by game reactions (overreactions in most cases) is what some people live on. On opening night, it felt like the season was over some when the Buffalo Sabres were shutout by the Boston Bruins.
After two straight victories, the talk has shifted back to a club who can do some good things this season and be a surprise team around the league. It’s hard to stay grounded, especially, in the ebbs and flows of an 82-game NHL season.
Only three games into the season, it’s impossible to draw any concrete conclusions on what type of year the Sabres are going to have.
I know, thank you captain obvious, but stay with me. While you can’t pick out any certainties, you can see some signs of this season being different.
The most obvious change is the support the Sabres are getting in goal from Carter Hutton. He carries a .943 save percentage and 2.06 goals against average through three games.
He’s seen the second most shots in the NHL so far with 106, only one behind the Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott. Hutton has also made the most saves in the league with 100.
Allowing an average of 35.3 shots against per game doesn’t feel like a sustainable formula to win hockey games. With how well Hutton has played, he’s enabled a young team to find their footing to start the season.
It’s not only on the ice but off the ice as well that Hutton has made an impact. He was hyped up as a great locker room guy when he was signed in the offseason and has shown that to be true thus far. He’s even-keeled and leads by example.
After Thursday’s awful home opener, Hutton, was one of the players who banged the drum of its only one game of 82 and they’ll be able to bounce back from it saying, “Whether we lost ten-nothing or one- nothing it’s just one game...the sun’s going to come up again tomorrow.”
The relaxed attitude is a welcome addition to a team who has been through a lot of adversity the past few years.
Besides Hutton, the power play is another area that has vastly improved so far. The Sabres held the worst power play in the league for a lot of last year after being ranked at the top the season prior.
Through three games they’re tied with the third-highest conversion rate with the man advantage at 37.5 percent. The top unit looks dangerous again and for the first time in a long time, they have a second unit that can score as well.
Racking up goals on the power play will go a long way in improving upon their league-worst scoring totals last season. It’ll also supplement for the lack even strength scoring that remains to be an issue so far.
If you throw out the Bruins game the puck distribution has improved, as well. It’s hard to quantify how improved the passing has been for the Sabres. In the two victories, you could see the improvement in their breakouts and ability to get through the neutral zone with some pace.
It enables them to get on the forecheck quickly and use the new speed on the roster to draw defenders out of position.
This was particularly evident on the second and fourth goals against the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Sabres can continue to show improvements in their game and string some wins together early in the season. While the early results are encouraging, it’s by no means perfect and there’s still a good amount of work that has to be done to clean up their game.