The Buffalo Sabres used three starting goaltenders this season. Ryan Miller, Patrick Lalime, and Jhonas Enroth.
Ryan Miller – The primary starting goaltender and star of the Buffalo Sabres. Ryan Miller set a franchise and personal career high with 41 wins this year. Besting his previous best (personal and franchise) of 40. Ryan Miller took an approach to his job this year where his only focus was on hockey. On locker room clean out day, he said he sacrificed many things this year in order to focus on his hockey. His Zen like approach to goaltending earned him a Vezina finalist bid, a starting goaltenders job in the Olympics that proved him a Silver medal (one goal away from a Gold). If he continues to take that sort of presence into the crease while he is in Buffalo, the Sabres will not have to worry too much about the goaltending position. Ryan Millers 2009-2010 grade: A. There is not much Ryan Miller can continue to do to get better, but every year he seems to improve his game. Under contract for several more years, the Sabres have a very good shot at contending, as long as he does not get frustrated and ask for a trade.
Patrick Lalime. With the number of games that Ryan Miller has proved he can play in one season, the backup goaltenders job in Buffalo is a position that does not get much work. When asked to fill in, Lalime did less than a fair job of spelling Ryan Miller. With only five wins this season, and inconsistent play – it is highly unlikely the Sabres will resign Lalime – and will either bring up Enroth from Portland full time or sign another veteran backup. Lalime’s 2009-2010 grade – C. While fans might disagree with this number, Lalime proved that when called upon regularly he can still win in the NHL. When left to gather dust for long periods of time, he doesn’t do so well. His days of backstopping a team full time are over, but wouldn’t surprise me if he landed another backup job. Recent Buffalo netminders who have faltered behind Miller have gone on to more successful stints elsewhere though. While the back up goaltenders position doesn’t seem to glamorous a position, the locker room will stand behind, or in front of whomever the front office decides will backup Ryan Miller.
Jhonas Enroth. Appeared in one game for the Buffalo Sabres this year, and is probably a few years away from starting in the NHL on a full time or even back up basis. Another solid year in Portland would definitely help the young goaltender’s maturation process. I don’t really want to grade a guy on one game, especially when so young. With the length of Miller’s contract and the Sabres committment to him however, I wouldn’t be surprised if Enroth ended up like Marty Biron, backing up Miller for several years before departing to greener pastures with another team.