No question it’s been a rocky season for the Buffalo Sabres. The team didn’t play well, they fired Lindy Ruff, questions arose about who the real leader of the Sabres was, Patrick Kaleta caused quite a stir with his media comments and before you know it the Buffalo Sabres found themselves second-to-last in the Eastern Conference. The one thing that hasn’t changed throughout the Sabres’ struggles is the fact that Ryan Miller is still the number one goalie.
While Miller has looked solid at times between the pipes, he also hasn’t been the Ryan we love. Yes, the Sabres defence hasn’t been great and they’ve left him out to dry many nights, but at the same time Miller hasn’t been at his best. Until recently the Sabres didn’t have any other option than to ride Miller as Jhonas Enroth couldn’t stop a beachball.
Since Enroth was given a shot against the New Jersey Devils on March 7th he has arguably been the better goalie of the two despite getting pulled due to “cramps.” Capping off Enroth’s 2-0 record in his last three starts was an impressive 3-2 OT win against the Montreal Canadiens- one of the best teams in the NHL. Enroth stood on his head facing 34 shots and coming up with big saves when the Sabres needed them.
The game against the Canadiens was arguably Enroth’s best game in over a year and had many calling for Enroth to be given the reigns and play a little more. Next up after the big win against the Canadiens was a game against the divisional rival Toronto Maple Leafs. Usually in a situation like that the coach rides the hot goaltender who would have been Enroth but instead Ron Rolston went with the veteran Miller.
Miller did not look great, he allowed 4 goals, but managed to get the Sabres a win in the shootout. On Saturday the Sabres once again had a match against the red-hot Canadiens. The obvious choice for Rolston would have been to put Enroth back in after he played fantastic and got the win last time the two teams met. But once again Rolston decided to go with Miller and apparently didn’t even think of putting Enroth in.
Since Enroth has started playing well again and beat the Canadiens there have been a lot of tweets, and people saying that he’s the true number one goalie for the Sabres. To be honest I was a little surprised that Rolston went with Miller over Enroth against both the Leafs and Canadiens as Miller was 1-3-2 in his last 6 (before Saturday) with a 3.56 Goals Against Average. But I understand why he went with Miller over the hot Enroth.
Ron Rolston was making a statement that despite his struggles this season Ryan Miller was still the Buffalo Sabres number one goalie. With trade rumours
swirling, drama between Miller and his teammates, Miller needed something to go his way. Rolston recognized this and gave his number one goalie a vote of confidence by going right back to him after a strong game from Enroth.
While Miller was shaky against the Leafs, he was stellar against the Canadiens on Saturday allowing only one goal and making 38 saves helping the Sabres to win a huge 1 goal game bringing them to within 2 points of the final playoff spot.
As good as Enroth has looked in his last three outings the best bet for the Sabres is to continue riding Ryan Miller for the simple reason of experience. Miller has been there done that- he’s backstopped the Sabres to the playoffs four times, he’s been the Sabres go-to goaltender for seven seasons and has been consistent year after year. Although he’s been shaky at times he is the Sabres best option to make the playoffs.
Rolston knows that Sabres are only as good as their goaltender, and the goaltender with the better track-record is Ryan Miller. That is why Rolston had to go back to him after Enroth’s strong game- There can’t be any questions as to who is the Sabres number one goalie. A healthy, confident Ryan Miller is just what the Buffalo Sabres need if they are to make the playoffs.