Buffalo Sabres goaltender is once again bouncing back from adversity

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has shown us he can be more than a serviceable NHL goaltender, and Buffalo Sabres coach Don Granato has taken notice in his improvement.
Buffalo Sabres v Arizona Coyotes
Buffalo Sabres v Arizona Coyotes / Zac BonDurant/GettyImages

Before he went down with an illness last month, Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was on a roll. Between November 14th and December 3rd (six games), Luukkonen allowed just 13 goals, and two or less in five of those games, foreshadowing a substantial leap from 2022-23.

Unfortunately for Luukkonen, that momentum didn’t hold, as an illness struck and he ended up missing 10 days, not returning until December 13th. In his first three games back, all losses, the 24-year-old allowed 12 goals.

However, he found some of his old form in the Sabres 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers, before he looked even better in the Blue and Gold’s win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. And head coach Don Granato had taken notice of Luukkonen’s overall improvement and ability to bounce back, stating the following in a recent piece from Audacy’s Paul Hamilton:

"“I think he’s feeling better in that regard and he’s one bright spot this year that could go under the radar. He’s continuing to show that he’s adding to his game and he’s getting better and better as an NHL player and his trend has been consistently going upward and I’m happy to see that he’s going in the right direction.”"

Don Granato

Source: Sabres goalies have different thoughts and having just two goalies in practice.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has grown in second season with the Buffalo Sabres

While Luukkonen still lacks consistency, it was great to see him bounce back from some pedestrian outings and put the Sabres in a position to win in his final two starts of the 2023 calendar year. They nearly beat the Rangers, and perhaps that would have been the case had Casey Mittelstadt been able to convert.

But, the Buffalo Sabres went down early in their come-from-behind win vs. the Blue Jackets, and while he only faced 20 shots on goal, Luukkonen still came up with more than his fair share of huge saves. Therefore, he still played a prominent role in helping the Blue and Gold win in their penultimate game of 2023. 

Luukkonen will get a chance to build on his recent success, and if he stays consistent, it will be a huge help for the young, struggling Sabres. More importantly, if Luukkonen stays healthy, he can also finally prove to be a consistent presence in the net long-term.


(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)