Will The Real Carter Hutton Please Stand Up?
Carter Hutton began the 2019-20 season with a confidence that led him toa scorching hot 6-0-0- record to begin the season. The 34 year old tendy earned his Buffalo Sabres six victories and 12 points between October 3 and October 19.
In those six wins, Hutton allowed just 10 goals against on 176 shot attempts he faced.
That's a remarkable .943 SV% and 1.66 GAA.
Oh, bye the way. Hutton pitched back-to-back shutouts on October 14 and 17 against the Dallas Stars and LA Kings respectively.
Hutton was a man on a mission. He was providing brick wall results for his Sabres teammates who jumped out to a quick 9-2 record to begin the 50th Anniversary season of their franchise.
Hutton and Linus Ullmark were working well in the Buffalo goalie tandem and the future looked very bright for all parties concerned.
Then, without warning, something inexplicable happened to Hutton that remains a mystery to Sabres fans.
Hutton lost his confidence. Not just some of it. ALL of it.
Since October 24, Hutton has played miserably to the tune of an 0-7-4 record.
How does one explain Hutton's 6-0 record to begin the season and the fact he is winless since that streak?
Hutton has made only three starts since December 7. In his three starts since December, Hutton has allowed six goals against twice and five goals against once.
In his 18 games started this season, Hutton has finished 17 games.
Hutton's current record reads:
Hutton has faced 530 shot attempts and has allowed 57 goals against in 1,033 minutes played.
Hutton's GAA has balloned to 3.31 and his SV% has sunk like a stone in Lake Erie to .892.
Hutton's 2 shutouts are his crowning achievements from an otherwise helter skaelter season.
While Hutton struggled to find his game, Ralph Kreuger gave the Sabres' net to Linus Ullmark.
The 26 year Swede has has played commendably in his first season of heavy game action in the NHL. In his 33 games started this season, Ullmark has a 16-14-0-3 record. His 16 wins are a career high in the NHL.
Ullmark has allowed only 89 goals against on 1,031 total shot attempts faced which translates to a respectable 2.72 GAA and .914 SV%.
Ullmark has authored one shutout this season.
On Tuesday night, Ullmark's season took a dramatic and sudden turn for the worse when trailing 3-2 after 50:28 of the game was played, Ullmark suffered a serious injury to his right leg.
The injury was non-weight bearing and Ullmark needed assistance to get back to the upright position and to the trainer's room for a medical evaluation. My first thought when I saw the injury was he suffered an MCL strain, high ankle sprain, or meniscus tear, which is common in NHL players.
After the game, Ralph Kreuger said more would be known about the severity of Ullmark's injury on Wednesday.
The news is not great.
The Sabres, who now find themselves 12 points behind a wild cared berth, are now forced to battle for their playoff lives without Ullmark for up to a month as he recovers from a lower-body injury sustained during the team's loss to Ottawa on Tuesday.
Enter Hutton, who mopped up in the third period for Ullmark in Monday night's loss to Ottawa.
Will the real Carter Hutton please stand up.
The Sabres called up rookie tendy Jonas Johansson from the Rochester Amerks on Wednesday morning to be co-pilot for Hutton.
The Sabres will host Montreal on Thursday night. Johansson, 24, repped the Amerks at the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic in Ontario, California on Monday night.
"JJ" has earned a 13-3-3 record, ranks third in the AHL with a 2.19 GAA and ranks fifth with a .925 SV% in 2019-20.
Johansson represented Sweden at the 2013 IIHF World Under-18 Championship and won a silver medal at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.
"We're disappointed for him (Ullmark) and us, because he was really building a good season here," Krueger said after Wednesday's prectice. "Again, we have an excellent staff that's going to bring him back as quick as possible. He's in their hands now, he's in that camp.
"We have Jonas here who's earned this opportunity to join us. He's had a terrific season so far in Rochester, an all-star there, which everybody knows. Now we have to work with "Hutts" and Johansson and do the best we can with this group going forward."
"We know that Carter can step up here," Kreuger said. "He had an excellent start of the season, some struggles of late. But it was more also the team performing differently in those games. There were some overtimes in there that didn't tip his way, so we're cheering for him as loud as anybody to get back on track result-wise.
"But he's always worked hard and has had some good weeks now with [assistant coach] Mike Bales. They've done a lot of extra work, and we feel Carter is ready to be the guy to step in here and carry the ball."
The Sabres badly need a hero to lead them from the net out.
Jack Eichel can't play goalie otherwise. Its now time for Hutton to pull himself up by his boot straps and shut the mouths of his loudest critics.
"If I don't play well JJ is going to play," Hutton said Wednesday.
"There's no security in what we do. This is the NHL. In that sense, I'm just going to go out there and do what I do. It's hard to really look at the big picture in that sense. I'm not looking down the road or whatever. You just try to stay in the moment.
"It's just hockey. I leave the rink I've got a family I go to. It's just hockey. I come here, I do my job, I do my best, I put a lot of work into it, but at the end of the day, it's just hockey. I do what I do and put enough work to try to be as successful as possible."
Meanwhile, Johansson is ready if called upon. The young Swede has been impressive while splitting time with veteran Andrew Hammond with the Amerks this season.
Hutton has one year remaining on his contract at $2.75M AAV.
The Sabres need Hutton to overcome his struggles and return to his dominating from October 6-0-0 streak.
Will the real Carter Hutton please stand up?