Starting job up for grabs

There are several aspects of the team’s play one could point the finger at after watching Buffalo get out to a 2-5-2 start to the season. Whether it’s sloppy play, lack of effort, or a little bit of everything, the Sabres simply need to improve in numerous areas.

It’s been a frustrating first few weeks to the season, and that’s an understatement at best. Head coach Phil Housley has struggled to light a fire under this team, and fans have had to watch the losses pile up early this October.

One of the biggest issues, and there are many, is that the goaltending hasn’t been as advertised. Sure, maybe Robin Lehner isn’t a true No. 1 goaltender, but that’s not the issue in this case. 

Lehner and Chad Johnson haven’t been on their game to this point. After posting a .920 save percentage and a 2.69 goals against average last season, Lehner has had trouble replicating those numbers. 

Through five starts, Lehner is 1-3-1 and has allowed three or more goals in all but one of those contests. Technically, he only allowed two goals in the opener against Montreal, but the shootout isn’t helping his case. He was also pulled from a game against the New York Islanders after allowing four goals in 27 minutes.

All of those games have brought his stats to a 3.29 goals against average and a save percentage of .894.

After acquiring Johnson in the offseason, many fans anticipated him being a reliable backup, but that has yet to be the case. In four starts, he’s allowed 15 goals and was also pulled from a game. His 3.84 GAA and .884 save percentage are actually worse than Lehner’s stats.

The team in front of them hasn’t been helping their cause. The defensive unit has left them out to dry and other forwards have made brutal giveaways in the defensive zone. Somehow, the team has also given up six shorthanded goals this season. Teams are getting quality chances against Buffalo while a man down, not to mention throughout every game.

It’s not fair to place all of the blame on the two guys manning the crease, but it’d be nice to see one of them step up and run with the starting job. They’re not the problem through nine games, but they’re also not doing much to help. 

Lehner and Johnson are both capable of better play, but if the Sabres want to have any kind of success, one of them will need to capitalize on this chance. 

The Sabres have rallied from three goals down twice already this season, but think what could have happened in those games had they not gone down by that much in the first place.

It’s only a few weeks in and it’s very likely both goaltenders will improve to an extent, but the starting job is in the air. Housley will play whoever is doing well, and if both continue not to, then general manager Jason Botterill might be forced to make a move.

Kevin Freiheit
I founded Buffalo Hockey Central in 2008 and have poured hours and hours into this site. Luckily, we have a great team of writers and designers who have helped keep this up and running despite a ton of out-of-pocket costs. We do this because we enjoy it, and we're desperate to see the Sabres win the Cup someday, but they have to make the playoffs first.
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