Cue the naysayers. Jhonas Enroth’s performance against the Rangers will bring every single Ryan Miller-hater out of the woodwork.
Forget the fact that Miller put up two huge shutouts and another strong two-goal game last week. He was named the first star of the week and was a major part of the Sabres establishing a strong foothold in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Of course he let in a few weak goals against Toronto that erased any good play that preceded the game. Enter Jhonas Enroth. Playing for an injured Miller, Enroth made 23 strong saves in a 1-0 shutout that preserved the Sabres’ three-point lead over Carolina. He played a smart game, controlled the pace and made timely saves. Suddenly there are a whole bunch of Sabres fans who think he should be the starter. Forget that he has no playoff experience and had a terribly weak game against Ottawa not long ago. Forget it, HE IS THE GOALIE OF THE FUTURE! I mean he has a better stat line than Miller does this year! Who cares if it his stats are only through eight games?
Back to reality. Jhonas Enroth is exactly the type of goalie you want as a backup. Just look at what Corey Schneider has done for Vancouver. He has given Roberto Luongo many more breaks than he had in the past and has helped push Vancouver to the top of the NHL. Just think if Ryan Miller only has to play 60 games and no longer has to worry about playing 30-straight games. It is a pretty great scenario for both sides. You’re starter doesn’t get burnt out for the playoffs and you have a back up who you can trust to get you points.
Enroth is an incredibly capable backup. He plays a strong game but his style lends itself to some weak goals and bad games – I guess most goaltenders have that issue. What most of the absolutely ignorant Sabres fans seem to forget is that watching a goalie 70 times a year for numerous seasons on end will tend to illustrate many of his weaknesses. I bet most Sabres fans would take a guy like Henrik Lundqvist or Jonathan Quick over Miller most of the time. However they don’t see Lundqvist play on a daily basis and see his slow hands result in many frustrating goals. Or maybe they would hate the fact that Quick is prone to surrender five or more here and there and his propensity for weak goals isn’t exactly reassuring.
Trust me when I say Ryan Miller is the guy you want between the pipes. Maybe he isn’t a goalie you can hitch your wagon to for a Cup run, but name me any goalie in the NHL not named Hasek or Roy who could do that today. If you give Miller some defense he is a top-10 goalie. Take away the horrendous defensive plays that Shaone Morrisonn made last night and you have a 3-2 win where many are singing the praises of Miller’s numerous big saves.
Anyway, don’t let shortsightedness cloud the facts in this case. Enroth is a great goalie, he can step in when you need him to and get you points. Miller is the franchise, whether you like it or not. A lot of people seem to think he isn’t a big game goalie. But the Devils game, the Florida game, the Montreal game, the Carolina loss, the Rangers game a few weeks ago….shall I continue? No? Yeah, the Sabres have played in a lot of big games lately, in fact every game is a big game so the “Miller isn’t a big game goalie” doesn’t really hold water.
Let this season play out. The loss to the Maple Leafs was tough to swallow and the win over the Rangers was a shot in the arm. But one loss or one win won’t determine the landscape of the playoff picture, not yet at least.