Good afternoon, Buffalo Sabres fans!
Now that the Buffalo Sabres’ 2013-2014 regular season has come to a close – oh, it has! It’s okay to admit that! – I have turned my attentions to alcohol. I mean next season! Whoops!
Specifically, I am interested in who the Sabres coaching staff and/or front office is going to deem worthy of getting the majority of the starts in between the pipes next season.
That’s right: I am officially creating a goalie controversy NOW, before the offseason even officially begins!
In one corner, we have backup-turned starter, Jhonas Enroth. At one point, Enroth went 4,000 consecutive starts without a win – it’s true! – but he has played solidly enough that he deserves a far better record than the 4-17-5 one his team has allowed him to earn. Of course, his 2.82 GAA and .911 save percentage scare me a bit, especially since Ryan Miller had the same defense playing in front of him and still managed to post far better numbers (2.72, .923). Enroth is also a bit under-sized, being one of only three starting goaltenders in the NHL who stand under 6 feet tall. Overall, there is not one single part of Enroth’s game that convinces me that he should not be Buffalo’s starter next season, but there are enough little things that add up to make me question his worthiness. Having said that, he has done the time and has the inside track on the promotion.
In the other corner we have the new guy, Michal Neuvirth. At 25 years of age, Neuvirth has only played in 136 games in his NHL career – but that’s almost twice as many as fellow 25 year-old Enroth, who has only played in 81. Neuvirth is bigger than Enroth (6’1″), and has comparable numbers, which would give him the nod over Enroth, in my opinion, as he has a larger sample size to consider. Neuvirth looked fantastic in the two games he played with the Sabres, facing 98 shots and stopping all but 5. I was glad to see the Sabres pick him up in the deal that sent Jaroslav Halak to Washington, and I think he poses a serious threat to Enroth in the battle to take over the starting job next season.
And waiting in the wings? The young gun, the 22 year-old Nathan Lieuwen. Standing 6’5″, this kid has the potential to absolutely dominate games once he masters the art of protecting the net. I feel he is still too young to be handed the starting position, but you have to admit: he looked cool as the other side of the pillow last night against Calgary. With both Enroth and Neuvirth less than 100%, Lieuwen could spend the rest of the season making his case for at least a spot on the NHL roster, if not THE starting spot itself.
Now: let your voice be heard! Vote, and tell me what’s up in the comments below!