The Instigator Podcast Interview – Featuring Greg Balloch of In Goal Mag

It’s been three games and there are plenty of questions about Buffalo’s goaltenders. So I reached out to Greg Balloch of In Goal Magazine to talk about Robin Lehner’s shootout struggles and more. Greg gives incredible insight to the strong and weak points of Lehner’s game, where he sees Lehner taking the Sabres and even offers up some thoughts on Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Greg also went deep into effective and ineffective goaltending statistics, providing a better way to look at goaltenders at the NHL level.

Sabres Feature Sharp Masks for 2017-18

The Sabres are back and with a new hockey season comes new hope, new expectations and, most importantly, new goalie equipment.

Every goalie in the Sabres system has a new-ish look for the season and while this lineup certainly isn’t the most impressive collection of masks and gear the team has ever seen, there are still a few solid set ups throughout the pipeline.

None is better than Robin Lehner’s phenomenal Brian’s OPT1K set. Known for unparalleled customization, Brian’s and Lehner cooked up a terrific blend of stock and custom team-logo graphics. I’m not always a fan of the fully custom team logo sets Brian’s creates, but the Sabre on each piece of Lehner’s set is understated enough that you have to look hard to find it.

Chad Johnson is really the only other worthwhile set up to speak of. He is sporting a clean Ventus set that is a little less colorful than the Ventus gear Lehner wore last season. The Ventus graphics are attractive and work nicely with the Sabres colors.

Other than the two goalies with the big club, Buffalo’s other netminders all sport very basic blue and white sets which won’t clash with the Amerks uniforms but don’t stand out much either. Where there is plenty of variety is in the mask department. Continue reading

Even with Ullmark in Hand Sabres Need to Supplement their Goaltending Pipeline

While the Sabres didn’t lose Linus Ullmark to the Vegas expansion draft, Buffalo’s goaltending pipeline remains a weak point within the organization; something that will need to be addressed this summer.

It appears evident that Cal Petersen will exercise his right as a free agent and sign with one of the league’s other 30 clubs. UPDATE: Jason Botterill confirmed today that Petersen will test free agency, adding that he doesn’t expect Petersen to sign with the Sabres.

That leaves the Sabres with only Jonas Johansson and restricted free agent Jason Kasdorf (edit: Kasdorf still has a year left) in the pipeline. With Ullmark set to graduate to full-time duty as Robin Lehner’s backup, the Sabres will need to get to work on finding help in net.

Count on the draft being the first step towards remedying the situation. The Sabres will draft at least one goaltender this weekend and may have been slated to spend a late round pick on a second had they not shipped their sixth round pick to Vegas as part of the expansion draft. Spending a pick on Jake Oettinger or Keith Petruzzelli (profiled in Kris Baker’s draft preview) would provide the Sabres a high value prospect to groom over the next couple of seasons. Both fit the blueprint of a modern NHL goaltender; a big body that can move well and both would instantly upgrade Buffalo’s goaltending depth.

Beyond the draft, the Sabres could use a few assets to take on key minutes in Rochester and to push Lehner and Ullmark. At the very least, the Sabres need to acquire one goalie this summer. Kasdorf is most likely to be shuttling between Rochester and Cincinnati, if not taking permanent residence with the Cyclones after a rough rookie season. A goaltender to work in tandem with Johansson in Rochester, if not a player capable of ascending to a higher level with additional growth, will be needed. Continue reading

Shopping Lehner is Tough with Few Replacement Options Available

A somewhat surprising name was tossed into the rumor mill this week after Bob McKenzie noted that Robin Lehner could very well be shopped by the Sabres this summer.

McKenzie noted that the Lehner’s arbitration rights and the potential to score a richer deal than Jason Botterill and the Sabres would be willing to offer being the two primary factors in shopping the netminder. He added that Botterill may not be sold on Lehner as a number one goaltender just yet. While that’s somewhat contradictory to what Botterill told Elliotte Friedman a couple weeks back, it isn’t too hard to read between the lines on what Botterill said.

The idea of shopping Lehner is a curious one. He finally got over the hump of playing a full season and replicated the strong numbers we saw in limited action during 2015-16, erasing some of the lingering questions about his durability and capability to fill the role as a number one. His season was far from perfect but given Buffalo’s depth at the position and Lehner’s fairly strong play, creating a hole on the roster doesn’t seem like a prudent decision.

Lehner’s arbitration status may be the biggest red flag in all of this as the idea of forking over $4m or more isn’t very palatable in my view. Even considering the strides he’s taken over the past season-and-a-half, I’m not sure forking over a long term, big money contract to Lehner is the answer this season. His resume is still too incomplete to justify a big contract nor is it so barren that he should be walked away from either. It’s a bit of a predicament that seems best solved by kicking the can down the road a bit with a short bridge deal. Simply walking away from him leaves the Sabres with a glaring hole where they don’t need to create one. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 5.29 – Turning the Corner

With a trifecta of impressive wins under their belt – and another near miss – the Sabres are creating some believers in Western New York. While there’s still work to do, it appears the rest of the team has caught up to the impressive play in goal. Chris and Tyler discuss the goaltending debate despite the lack of an actual goalie controversy while also highlighting the impressive play of Evander Kane, Sam Reinhart and Kyle Okposo, among others. Be sure to listen in here or grab the episode on your mobile device and listen on the go.

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Crease Crash Course: Brain Farts All Around in Florida

The Sabres were just minutes away from an impressive comeback road win in Sunrise when a quartet of bad plays led to the tying goal in a game the Sabres would ultimately lose in a shootout.

At the center of Nick Bjugstad’s goal is Zach Bogosian, who makes a number of bad decisions which led to the goal. Robin Lehner, who had played a strong game to this point, ultimately made a very strange decision and poor read prior to Bjugstad chipping the tying goal home.

This is the first goalie review in some time as Buffalo’s run over the last few weeks has featured mostly straightforward play. Both Lehner and Anders Nilsson have continued to play very well and the goals they’re being beaten on aren’t too complicated. So the lack of really in-depth plays to review (and the lack of quality replays in some cases) has led to the absence. However, Bjugstad’s goal on Tuesday featured a number of breakdowns, including the goaltender. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 5.27 – Do the Sabres have a Crease Crisis?

With a lot of attention directed to Buffalo’s goal tending as of late, Chris and Tyler spend this week’s podcast discussing the strength shown by Lehner and Nilsson so far this year while also pouring water on the idea that there could be some sort of controversy brewing.

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