The Buffalo Sabres will try to continue their red hot start to the NHL season on Tuesday night when they host the San Jose Sharks at the KeyBank Center. The Sabres are in a three way tie with Edmonton and Colorado for the best record in hockey putting up 15 points in the early going with a record of 7-1-1. The Sharks haven’t been as fortunate with a 3-5-0 record in their first eight games of the season.
There’s been plenty of contributors to Buffalo’s scorching performance but none more significant than goaltender Carter Hutton. Hutton, best known for his stint as Pekka Rinne’s backup in Nashville, has always been a well regarded backup but now that he’s a starter he’s putting up Vezina Trophy level numbers. Hutton has the best goals against average (1.39) and save percentage (.953) in the NHL and his 5 wins puts him in a tie for second place in that category. Then again, Buffalo is doing most everything well at the moment. They’re #6-T in team defense allowing an average of 2.33 goals per game and #4-T in goals scored per game with 3.67. They’ve got the #4 power play in the NHL hitting on 31.4% of man advantage opportunities. Their penalty kill might be the only weak spot of this team–they rank #20 at 75%.
The penalty kill has been one of San Jose’s few bright spots this season. The Sharks are #2 in the NHL killing off 92.9% of man advantage situations. The power play hasn’t been awful ranking #12 at 23.3% but overall they’re #20 in the NHL in goals scored per game (2.63) and #21-T in scoring defense allowing 3.50 goals per game. Starter Martin Jones has been in downright miserable form–a puzzling development given how good he’s been in the past. Jones is 2-4-0 with a 3.39 goals against average and a 0.899 save percentage. Both Jones and the aforementioned Carter Hutton are projected to be the starters in this matchup.
San Jose lost four straight games to start the season but have been playing better since. They had won three straight before dropping a 4-3 decision to Buffalo at home on Saturday night. In theory, the best plan is to look toward the team that lost the first game in the second game of ‘quick rematch’ situations but not sure I want to get in front of the Sabres at this point. More significantly, Buffalo has dominated San Jose for years. The Sabres are on a 21-11 +19.2 unit run against Buffalo including a 13-3 +12.8 unit run at home. The Sabres split two games last year with each team winning on home ice.
It doesn’t appear that the marketplace has yet to ‘buy in’ on the Sabres being legit. This gives us a nice opportunity to back one of the hottest teams in hockey at a very attractive price.