Don’t call it a controversy. Ryan Miller is still the starting goaltender for the Buffalo Sabres, much to the chagrin of many fans throughout Buffalo. However, too many people are looking at this situation with a closed mind, whereas they need to see the entire situation before passing full judgement.
Jhonas Enroth has given the Buffalo Sabres a weapon they have not had since Marty Biron’s departure in 2007. He is a high draft pick who is more than capable of filling the role of backup goaltender in the NHL. His stats back that up, he is 2-0-0 in two stars (one relief effort too) with a 1.39 GAA and .955 SV%.
Ryan Miller’s stat line is currently 4-5-0, 2.48 GAA, .922 SV%. Obviously the loss column sticks out there. Special thanks to Mike Harrington who tweeted the stats I was hammering out minutes ago. Miller was hovering near the top of the league through his first five games with a 4-1 record, 1.61 GAA and .950 SV%. He his 0-4, 3.91 and .874 in his last four, not as good. Again, thanks to Mike at TBN, he churned out the numbers before I could.
What really stands out in the whole “Miller vs. Enroth” flap is where the fans stand on the matter. Mind you, the media really hasn’t fueled the fire until this recent outing. Until then it had only been goaltending-illiterate fans on message boards and in the stand who know all there is to know about the position.
At Wednesday’s game, section 305 was rampant with fans who sounded as if they hated Ryan Miller for everything he stood for and not only expected him to fail, but were cheering for him to fail. Not only is it embarrassing for any fan to root against their own team’s players, it is more embarrassing to root against the city’s one true superstar. Now, Miller had a real rough go against the Flyers. His rebound control was poor and the first Flyers goal was a direct result of that. However, the second two goals had very little to do with the player between the pipes. Newsflash for the guy sitting in row six, seat 23; Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek wouldn’t have gotten their gloves on those two snipes. I will add that Miller’s angle wasn’t dead on for the Hartnell goal, but the guy wired that shot. There isn’t much that could have been done.
Miller faced 11 shots in 6:23 of play. Enroth faced 15 shots in the following 53:37. I didn’t have an exact count on chances, but Miller certainly faced a higher quantity of chances than Enroth. Pulling Miller sparked the roster and they tightened up for the remainder of the game. Enroth was forced to make two great saves on odd-man opportunities, but was largely untested for most of his time in net. There is no denying that Miller needed to come out, he wasn’t sharp and it showed. However, most fans don’t see the forest for the trees. All people see is the puck in the net and the starter on the bench.
This is where many fans and critics leave the sane world and enter a bizzaro world where everything the guy they hate (Miller) does is wrong and everything their savior (Enroth) does is brilliant. A few saves Miller made kicked out large rebounds, nothing was said by the masses about these saves. However, the rebounds were bad and you don’t expect an all-world goalie to have that sort of gaffe. Enroth made an identical save, identical, to Miller’s in the first and the fans in the stands acted as if it was the second coming of Hasek’s diving blocker save. This is perhaps the biggest problem for those who argue Miller should be gone and Enroth should be the starter. They don’t view the two on a level playing field.
Without judging the two goaltenders equally there is no proper way to truly evaluate who should be the starter. The topic of money is a valid point, but it shouldn’t really factor in to this argument. Why? Because there isn’t a single goalie in the NHL worth more than $5 million per year, it doesn’t matter who you’re referring to. This needs to be a debate focused on play and overall contribution to the team.
Simply saying Ryan Miller is not elite or is overrated is a childish and ignorant argument. Often that argument is backed up with the “he allows soft goals” justification. The same goes for saying Enroth is better without offering any real reasoning behind the statement. Miller probably suffers from familiarity by contempt, I’ve mentioned this on Twitter numerous times. If Sabres fans were subjected to any of the other “top-ten” NHL goalies, they would have the same short patience as they do with Miller. I guarantee it.
Jhonas Enroth is like a shiny new toy. Everyone wants to play with it and discard the old toy. Enroth has tons of upside, I will not deny that. As of right now I say go for it. Enroth is the hot hand, Miller has hit a bit of a rough patch, play the best goalie on the roster at this point in time. Just bear in mind, when Miller is back to the form he showed through the first five games, don’t be angry when he is rolled back out.
Lastly, for as proud Buffalo fans are of being so hockey-savvy, they really don’t show it. Well, the people who are buying tickets certainly don’t show it.