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Buffalo, NY | Local News, Weather, Traffic, Sports | WGRZ.com

Hamilton Take2: House Call a welcome one

WGRZ/WGR550 Sabres/NHL Insider Paul Hamilton shares his thoughts on Michael Houser's inspiring performances in his first two NHL games.
Credit: AP
Buffalo Sabres goalie Michael Houser (32) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders, Tuesday, May 4, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Some of the better goalies in Sabres history have had good starts to their careers.

The third-winningest goalie for this team, Donnie Edwards started 4-0-0. Former first-round pick Mika Noronen won his first three games and NHL All-Star Daren Puppa, and 1984 Calder and Vezina trophy winner Tom Barrasso went 2-0-0.

You know who else has started his Sabres career 2-0-0? Michael Houser. Yes, the same Michael Houser that has played only eight AHL games since 2015-16.

The only player I can remotely compare this to is Jordan Binnington of the St. Louis Blues. Before coming up to the NHL and leading them from last place in the whole league to the Stanley Cup, he had played one NHL game.

The year before that the Blues had Binnington so far down the depth chart, they had no place to send him so they loaned him to the Providence Bruins. That’s the season where he finally put up some good numbers and the next year after 16 games in the minors, he got called up, got St. Louis into the playoffs and won the Stanley Cup.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not starting the pilgrimage to Toronto to induct Houser into the Hockey Hall of Fame, but what he did against the New York Islanders in two games was utterly amazing. In two games Houser has looked at 84 shots. That’s an average of 40.32 shots per game. His save percentage is off the charts at .940 and he’s not the least bit intimidated about being in a NHL crease. Also, don’t forget he stopped all three of the Islanders in the shootout too to preserve the win.  

When you go from being a goalie in the ECHL to the NHL all in one season, you become the talk of the league and after what he’s done, everybody is talking about you and wants to talk to you.

Houser said, “You want to try to answer everybody because everybody is being so supportive and everyone is just as happy as I am, but I wanted to put the blinders on a little bit for the rest of the week and I’ll have all summer to answer the thank-yous, but it’s been really nice. I love hearing form people that I haven’t heard form for awhile, you know people that were there when you first starting playing, so those are really cool calls and texts.”

Houser is from Wexford, Pennsylvania. That’s about 15 to 20 minutes outside of Pittsburgh and guess where the final two games of the season are, in Pittsburgh against the Penguins. That means mom and dad as well as other relatives and friends will be there, “I’ve got to get a final number for the count, so that will be really cool, I’m not sure who’s playing, but if I’m in there, that will be really cool, having my parents there seeing me play in the NHL will be really fun.”

A fun side note is Houser went to the same high school as our Julianne Pelusi, but was two years behind her.

Chances are pretty good Houser will get a game in his hometown. Linus Ullmark has been practicing, but Don Granato said it’s going to be very close to see if he can get where he needs to be to play. Even if Ullmark is healthy, I’d be shocked if Granato didn’t allow Houser to play in his hometown.

After both wins his teammates came out and mobbed him. I think it’s the happiest I’ve seen guys on this team in the last 10 years and I’m being very serious about that. The guys couldn’t be happier for their new teammate and came back from a two goal deficit twice to get him those wins. The Islanders are the best team in the NHL at protecting the lead, so the fact the Sabres could do that two games in a row against last season’s Eastern Conference Finalist is an achievement.