In a game I said earlier today was against two struggling backup netminders, neither Jhonas Enroth or Johan Hedberg looked like struggling backups tonight. For a goaltender who hadn’t won a game since Nov. 26th, 2011 and had been benched because of poor play since Feb 5th, Jhonas Enroth played one heck of game. In fact there’s a strong chance the Sabres wouldn’t have been up 2 goals late in the 3rd if Enroth hadn’t been between the pipes.
Enroth played his best game since last year when he created “goalie controversy” by out playing Ryan Miller. He made 29 saves and posted a .931 Save
Percentage while keeping the Sabres in the game and preserving a 2 goal lead. He can’t be blamed for the 1st goal which was scored on a New Jersey Devils power play after a weak penalty by Christian Ehrhoff. Although there should have been a call against the Devils right before the Ehrhoff penalty as a Sabres forward had his stick slashed out of his hand. The 2nd Devils goal however he can be held a bit more responsible as he kicked out a horrible rebound on a rather weak shot and then his leg cramped up and he was unable to push to get to the rebound as Patrik Elias shot the puck past a cramped up Enroth. A leg cramp at the most crucial point in the entire game- wow the Buffalo Sabres really can’t catch a break this season. Miller came on in relief of Enroth and stopped all 4 saves- including one big point blank save with only a few seconds left.
In the words of Cody Hodgson- “That’s a tough one, probably one of our worst loses”. It was in fact one of the worst loses after being up 2-0 with less than 10 minutes left in the 3rd period. What did Ryan Miller say again- “this team can’t hold a lead?” Up by 2 goals late in the 3rd period the Sabres stopped skating and spent far too much time chasing the Devils around in their own end, relying on Enroth to make saves to save them. As usual when you stop scoring you take stupid penalties and that was the case and where it all went downhill for the Sabres. Giving up a 2 goal lead that late in the 3rd period at this crucial point in the season is completely unacceptable and speaks volumes to the leadership and accountability or lack-there-of of this team. There is honestly no excuse for losing this game tonight- none at all.
On the plus side Thomas Vanek is finally back from his injury and looked really good tonight, scoring his 13th goal on the power play of all things! Vanek had just over 23 minutes of ice time and led the team with 4 shots on Hedberg. Sticking with the positives, Brian Flynn had the best game of his young NHL career scoring his first NHL goal which put the Sabres up by 2. Flynn was flying all over the ice and creating multiple opportunities for himself and his teammates, drawing the penalty in which Vanek capitalized on. Flynn also had 4 shots on goal and his first career goal was a workman’s goal that involved him first battling on the boards, getting knocked down in front of the net but then springing to his feet to barry the loose puck. If Flynn keeps playing the way he has since getting called up he may have a future here in Buffalo.
One thing to be really concerned about is the Sabres not hitting the net. Jason Pominville and Cody Hodgson both rang shots off the post, Pominville’s was in overtime of all times. While hitting the post is as close as you can come and is a difference of a just a few inches, the Sabres fired 25 shots at Hedberg and at least 15 wide. Vanek fired 2 amazing opportunities wide, including once while right in the slot, Hodgson fired several great shots wide and Tyler Ennis missed the net after intercepting a Devils breakout pass. If the Sabres had scored on even 1 of their 15+ shots that missed the net this is a different game and likely a different outcome.
While the Sabres did get a point in the shootout lose, it wasn’t good enough. The Sabres are in 14th place in the Eastern conference and have 6 teams to pass, and when teams ahead are getting 2 points to the Sabres 1 it’s not going to cut it. Things are looking awful bleak for the Sabres and with their inability to hold a lead, especially late in the game things aren’t looking much better. This is now the 2nd game in the last 3 they have blown a lead and either left points on the table or not gotten any at all.
Tonights game was tons of fun to watch, both the Devils and Sabres traded fantastic opportunities but in the end the Sabres wasted their opportunities and ultimately lost in the shootout. Jhonas Enroth deserved a much better fate then he got tonight, he showed he was ready to win a game right from the start and made lots of fantastic saves.