At 2-6 the Sabres are in an interesting position. After another close 4-3 loss against the New Jersey Devils, Buffalo continues to find itself at a disadvantage at goalie.
Linus Ullmark made his first career NHL start against the Devils. He looked shaky letting in 4 goals on 28 shots. A bad breakaway goal where he was beat glove side as well as a wrist shot he let in straight through the five hole made the 22 year old prospect look like he simply wasn't ready for the big league.
However I saw a goalie that has tremendous vision, athleticism, and an understanding of the game. You could see that Ullmark has all the capabilities of being a NHL goalie. Ullmark made a great save on the penalty kill getting across the crease to make a big blocker save. It is easy to see why Murray loves the size and reach Ullmark has.
Ullmark needs to adjust to the North American game still. Remember that was his third start ever in the states. The goaltender said the size of the ice and speed of the game was different for him and he knows there is a lot of room for improvement.
So what do the Sabres do at goalie now? Murray wants to develop his young prospects and give them NHL experience. If Buffalo were to claim Karri Ramo, it would be hard to evaluate Ullmark, Lieuwen, and possibly Makarov if it comes to that point. Ramo was struggling in Calgary at the beginning of the season anyway. Unless the Sabres give up draft picks and a valuable skater, it looks like they will be sticking with what they have.
And that is ok.
Chad Johnson has struggled but he has looked reliable at times too. That is what you get with a guy who will at best be a career NHL backup. If the expectations are to improve each game and not go all in for the playoffs, it would be smart to allow Ullmark to continue to get time.
Almost all franchises slowly develop their goalies and rightfully so, however I think letting Ullmark gain more and more experience in Buffalo until Robin Lehner comes back is the right way to develop the Swedish goalie. You could see the improvement as the game went along.
Of course making the playoffs would be nice, however the Sabres shouldn't waste assets on a stop gap for a few weeks. Allow Ullmark to gain experience. He isn't a liability in my opinion. In all honesty I think he gives Buffalo a better chance to win than Johnson.
Johnson has a sub par save percentage. He is a ticking time bomb that can let 4 goals in a period like he did against Montreal. If Bylsma can balance the playing time until Lehner comes back, I think the Sabres can stay afloat.
Tim Murray should stick with what he has. Chad Johnson will steal a few wins, add that with the potential of Ullmark getting on a roll and you have a serviceable strategy until Lehner comes back.
Ullmark is the top prospect in the pool. The Sabres believe in the 22 year old and want to continue to develop him into a NHL goalie. He and Robin Lehner can be a great 1-2 punch in the future. If someone doesn't pan out like expected, Murray has plenty of prospects like Jason Kasdorf, Cal Petersen, and Jonas Johansson waiting in the wing.
It is an interesting situation for the Sabres to say the least. Look at the positives with Ullmark and the situation. The Sabres are not going all in for the playoffs. It is a process Buffalo fans. You know that (we tanked didn't we?)