Between the Pipes: Weekend update

It was quite an eventful weekend for the Sabres with a back-to-back set punctuated with the trade of Thomas Vanek on Sunday evening. In an attempt to continue my focus on the Sabres crease, I’ll hold off on any sort of recap of the two games this weekend and simply review the goaltenders.

Jhonas Enroth – 44 saves, 3-1 win

Enroth was easily the first star of the weekend for the Sabres as he single-handedly earned them their first regulation win of the season. He made a number of dazzling saves amongst the 45 shots he faced in the one-goal effort earning him an easy nod as the game’s first star.

What he did well

When Enroth is at his best he is playing big and getting hit with the puck. He’s much more of a blocking goaltender than one who reacts to each shot and truly “makes saves”. What makes Enroth so effective in his style is that he’s able to play big despite being somewhat undersized as a goaltender in today’s NHL.

On Friday he was on. It was the type of performance that has most Sabres fans at a certain level of acceptance with Ryan Miller’s potential departure. Enroth was very active in the crease and he was turning aside a number of difficult back-door plays. He took a handful of goals off the Panthers’ sticks which is as much as you can ask of a goalie getting peppered with 45 pucks.

Where he struggled

There isn’t much to complain about in this department. This is one of the best games I’ve seen Enroth play. While he may have misplayed the centering attempt that resulted in Florida’s goal, I certainly think that he isn’t deserving of any blame on the play.

Save of the game

It was at least a two-save sequence but very well may have been a three-save sequence in the second period. He made two strong power pushes going in both directions to stay with an active puck in the slot and ultimately stone Florida on the play (I can’t remember the player’s name). It is undoubtedly a top-five save for the team this year.

Ryan Miller

Miller caught the loss on the back end of the weekend set despite turning in a sterling performance against Tampa. It was a loss that was palatable simply due to the fact that the team wasn’t completely run out of the barn as they had been in recent defeats to Colorado and Boston. They probably needed a save or two more from Miller, but after giving up 39 as it was, there isn’t much more that can be asked of these two goalies.

What he did well

Miller quite literally kept his team above water. The Sabres were outshot 13-6 in extra man situations (they gave up two shorthanded shots) and 39-22 for the game. Miller stayed in control and made a number of dazzling saves through the night. It’s a feat when a goaltender can turn in a save percentage over .920 and still take a three-goal loss.

Where he struggled

He got a little out of control on the Palat game winner. It was a chaotic scene that saw the initial shot attempt redirected by a Sabre prior to Palat depositing the rebound for the game winner. Had Johnson’s initial shot not been deflected I’d bet that Miller takes the puck in his crest. But the redirect changed matters and Miller wound up reaching on the goal itself.

Save of the game

His sliding kick save on the Martin St. Louis one-timer might actually be the save of the season to this point. He went a long way with speed in order to make that save which, to a goaltender, is incredibly impressive.

Notes:

  • St. Louis’ goal and the highlight-reel save Miller made earlier offer a nice juxtaposition on how goalies – specifically Miller – are interpreted. The two shots were nearly identical but one went in while the other was a highlight reel save. Is that something which all viewers catch? Probably not, but it’s the type of thing that happens over the course of a game or season that can be overlooked.
  • The loss to the Lightning was a lot closer to the type of losses most fans were probably expecting to see this year. It was a competitive game in which their goalie kept the team alive before the opponent ultimately got over the hump. The Sabres weren’t dominated in every single aspect of the game and the score did reflect that.
  • Good on Ron Rolston for sliding Mikhail Grigorenko to wing. I’m amongst the fans who were hoping to see him as the dynamic playmaking center he was in junior, but playing wing is going to simplify what’s expected of him and should actually open the door for more ice time.
  • You can mark down a stolen game for both Miller and Enroth now after the triumph in Sunrise for the young Swede. I’d like to see him get some more playing time moving forward as the team simply isn’t good enough to necessitate a schedule where your starter sees a boat load of minutes.
  • Go back and watch the game winner in Tampa and watch the play break down starting with Henrik Tallinder going to support Rasmus Ristolainen in the corner. Tampa comes away with the puck there and Buffalo’s coverage is nonexistent due to Tallinder leaving the crease. It goes downhill from there.

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