Buffalo Sabres: Jhonas Enroth Making His Case As Backup Goaltender

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He may have the wrong-colored pads, but rookie goaltender Jhonas Enroth is making his case as the new backup goaltender of the Buffalo Sabres.

Enroth will get the nod tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it is becoming obvious that head coach Lindy Ruff has lost faith in Patrick Lalime. Ryan Miller is currently sidelined with a nagging groin injury, which gives management and fans a chance to evaluate the backup goaltenders.

Lalime’s costly giveaway to Adam Hall in a 2-1 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning provides an overview of Lalime’s career as a Sabre. He shut down the high-scoring duo of Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, but all of that is overshadowed by his grievous error. The team in front of Lalime has often been accused of not playing for him while he is in relief of Ryan Miller. In the five games Lalime has played this season, the Sabres scored a total of eight goals and were shutout in a 4-0 loss in Dallas.

In his career as a Sabre, Lalime has played in 45 games, posting a 2.99 GAA, a .902 save percentage and has had no shutouts. But the number that stands out most is his win-loss record which is an abysmal 9-25-5.

Lalime has yet to win a game this year, but Enroth has posted two victories in four games, both in shootouts. He also has an overtime loss that counts as one point in the standings. Enroth is the first goalie in NHL history to win his first two games in a shootout. Statistically, Enroth (3.42 GAA, .876 SV%) has worse numbers than Lalime (3.03 GAA, .891 SV%) this season. However, wins are the only thing that matter in the end.

Drafted by the Sabres in the Round 2 (46th Overall) in 2006, Enroth was touted as the best Swedish goaltending prospect since a guy named Henrik Lundqvist. Despite his small stature (5’10”, 170 lbs.), Enroth put up great numbers in the Swedish Elite League (27 GP, 2.13 GAA, .932 SV%). He has played the past two seasons with Portland of the AHL, posting a 54-41-7 record along with eight shutouts.

The main thing going against Enroth, a highly-touted prospect, becoming the full-time backup on the team is that the first-string goalie is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. Ruff and general manager Darcy Regier will have a tough decision to make if Enroth continues to win games, whether or not to keep him on the big club or get him more experience in the AHL.

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