Buffalo Sabres 2013-14 Preview: Goaltending


The Buffalo Sabres‘ goaltenders were busy last season. 

The Sabres ranked dead last in the NHL by allowing 33.5 shots per game last season, with a significant gap between them and the 29th-rated team, the Edmonton Oilers

While the Sabres’ defense likely will not be as porous as it was last season, the Sabres’ netminders likely figure to be active again. That means the lynch pin to the team’s success likely rests in the crease each night. 

This puts a big spotlight on Ryan Miller or Jhonas Enroth every single game night. 

Miller, despite seemingly having one foot out the door for most of the offseason, is back with the Sabres for at least the start of the season. Miller had a down year last year, posting a 2.81 goals against average, a career-high. 

While Miller may not be the Vezina Trophy-winning, Olympic MVP he was four years ago, he still has the ability to be a top netminder in the NHL. The Sabres may be hoping that he finds the magic of the last Olympics this year with a spot on this year’s USA team in question. 

Either way, the Miller situation is extremely fluid. There are a lot of factors that will play into it, including his play and the team’s position in the standings, but it seems that Miller’s name will be thrown around in trade talks all season long as well. 

Miller’s backup is again Jhonas Enroth who bounced back nicely at the end of last season after a horrendous stretch dating back to the 2011-12 season. Buffalo fans may have a bit more confidence in Enroth as the starter now than they did that this time last season, but he still has some growing to do. 

Enroth started last night’s preseason opener in Montreal and stopped 10 of 13 shots.

Behind Enroth, and possibly a part of a platoon if Miller were to be moved, is Matt Hackett. Hackett was acquired last year at the deadline along with Johan Larsson in exchange for Jason Pominville

Hackett has some NHL experience, but will begin the season starting in Rochester of the AHL. Hackett looked great in last night’s preseason game, saving 11 of 12 shots, including a few of the highlight reel variety. 

The Hackett trade certainly gives the Sabres’ front office more leeway with a possible trade and may have been the final organizational push that led to “Miller Watch 2013.” 

Competing for Hackett’s backup position in Rochester include, in no particular order, Nathan Lieuwen, Connor Knapp and Andrey Makarov. Lieuwen and Knapp have AHL experience, but Makarov seems to have the inside edge on the job based on his play in the Traverse City tournament last week. 

Overall, Miller will lead the way out of the locker room for the season opener in Detroit on October 2, but there is a real possibility he will not finish the year in a Sabres sweater.

Expect Enroth to have a more prominent role this season, if only to prepare him for an increased role next season when Miller will all but certainly be in a new city. Hackett will hone his game in the AHL, but may see some call up time sooner rather than later. 

Regardless, all three should be ready for some busy nights come October.

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