Hutton's play helping Sabres
October 10, 2018 3:00 AM
by Nick Pellegrino
Throughout his NHL career, goaltender Carter Hutton has been at the wrong place at the wrong time.
The “goalie of the future” after being signed as a free agent by San Jose out of UMass.-Lowell, was subsequently released.
Following the lockout and ensuing shortened, 48-game season in 2012-13, Hutton never had a chance in Chicago. The No. 1 goalie for the Blackhawks was Corey Crawford, while back-up Ray Emery posted a spectacular 71-1-0 record against the league’s bottom feeders.
Hutton, then a 27-year old rookie, gained his lone start/appearance on the final day of the regular season – no, his name wasn’t engraved on the Stanley Cup – before being let go as a free agent, moving to Nashville.
However, Hutton could only share starting duties with the injured Pekka Rinne before the Predators sent him, first, to the bench as the back-up, then two seasons later was again released and signed by St. Louis.
In Hutton’s way with the Blues was Jake Allen, an emerging star, while continuous failures for the floundering Blues franchise forced a fresh start.
This season finds Hutton, a native of Thunder Bay, Ont., as the probable starting goalie for the lowly Buffalo Sabres, a club which hasn’t advanced to the playoffs since 2011.
Why did I force you to read all about the history of Hutton? Because for those betting on the NHL, Hutton could be the reason to look to the Sabres when purchasing your next wagering ticket.
The Sabres are off to a 2-1 start, having bounced back from their season-opening 4-0 shutout loss to Boston with impressive wins over the New York Rangers (3-1) and the Vegas Golden Knights (4-2).
And while it’s premature to be throwing a parade downtown, there are signs that the team’s long-suffering fan base is becoming re-energized. Part of that is having a reliable guy in net.
Hutton owns proven numbers in the net, posting a 17-7-3 record and leading the league last season with a solid 2.09 goals-against average. His career marks are 63-39-17 with a 2.42 GAA and .915 save percentage.
Sure, last season’s numbers came in only 32 appearances, making it easier to lead the league rather than a player in 60-plus contests. But with a young, developing corps of talented blue-liners, Buffalo will be a tough out for many teams this season -- no, I didn’t say a playoff participant.
And thus, a welcome betting opportunity at plus-money almost every night early in the season on a Sabres squad which ranked 29th in the NHL in goals-against (278) and GAA (3.39) on the way to a last-place finish with 25 wins and 62 points in the Atlantic Division.
Hutton will rely on a pair of talented youngsters in defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, selected No. 1 in the 2018 NHL Draft, plus center Jack Eichel, chosen tops in 2015 and known for his responsibility for playing on both ends of the ice.
Generally, I’m rarely impressed by players so young (Dahlin is 18; Eichel, 21), but this pair – so far – pass my eye test.
In a recent interview, Hutton noted that he had learned about mental toughness from Rinne, while also learning about mental visualization from Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur, who was the Blues’ assistant general manager when Hutton was there the past two seasons.
Hutton’s back-up will likely be 24-year-old Linus Ullmark, who has been an American Hockey League all-star in each of the past two seasons with Rochester and has a .917 save percentage in 26 NHL games over three seasons.
The Sabres close out their season-opening four-game homestand Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche. Then they embark upon a five-game west coast road trip which will include a rematch with the Knights on Tuesday at T-Mobile Arena. If they can find a way to play winning hockey on the trip, they may not be as big an underdog as everyone had them pegged before the season.