Buffalo Sabres Goaltending Blunders May Prove Costly

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Buffalo Sabres fans understand one thing. They do not have the greatest back up goaltender in the NHL. But still as the Sabres get ready for a grueling next two months of play, and push to get into the playoff picture, tonight would have been the perfect time to rest starting goalie Ryan Miller.

But like we’ve witnessed now over the last two seasons head coach Lindy Ruff shows no confidence back up goalie Patrick Lalime. Rather than give Miller the night off after a few recent shaky outings Ruff in his infinite wisdom goes to the well once too often. Playing a much weaker opponent tonight when hosting the New York Islanders Miller let in a season high seven goals.

To me this blunder once again falls on to the shoulders of two individuals, Lindy Ruff and Ryan Miller. Fans can ask “why Miller?” well it’s no secret he has been slightly better than average since last seasons Olympic break. But has shown some serious flaws in his game. He is a very cerebral goal tender. His claim to fame is his mental preparation. But that preparation has been slightly off for some time.

No, I do not expect Miller to tell the coaching staff that he needs a night off. Most competitors would parish the thought of ever doing that. But I do expect Ryan Miller to work at his craft, and seek out the help he needs to regain that determining drive he once possessed.

But really to me the real fault lies with head coach Lindy Ruff and his refusal to see when things are not going well. Yes, Lalime when injected into the starting line up has, at points, left something to really be desired. But at the same time Ruff must show a shred of confidence in Lalime. Giving him four starts to this point in the season is not going to make him any better as a goaltender.  

The Sabres have now played 54 games this season, and Miller has played in 45 of them. Miller has had ample time for rest the first half of the season with nights off between games, but maybe 45 games is too many. Now going forward for the Sabres this will be an uphill battle.

In the beginning of March they will be on a 14 day road trip that will see them play many conference opponents that are well ahead of them in the standings. Not to mention time off between games will now be at a minimum.

It is now time for Lindy Ruff to make some hard decisions. Does he start showing a glimmer of confidence in Patrick Lalime, or does he call on another back up such as Jhonas Enroth? Either way the goaltending duties cannot fall solely on the shoulders of Ryan Miller if this team wants a chance of making the playoffs, and moving past the first round.

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