It never fails.
Be it a starting goaltender in the NHL, or a starting QB in the NFL, as soon as an injury forces a backup into the spotlight, a silly controversy amid the fan base begins.
“Who starts when the starter comes back?”
The starter starts. That’s why they call him the starter.
Snarky generalizations aside, let us examine in detail the current silly match-up of Enroth vs. Miller. Heck, we have plenty of time this afternoon before the Tampa game anyway, so let’s use that time productively to stomp on this annoying little conversational bug.
Enroth’s success story is a joyous one, and equally impressive in stats: 2-0-1 with a .936 save percentage since Miller went down with an upper body injury. That is phenominal clutch play, at the time when the team needed it the most. Nothing in the standings is guaranteed yet, but Enroth backstopped the Sabres into a very strong position to actually make the playoffs.
Still, he’s been the backbone for only three games, sports fans. Miller has carried the team all year long, including the great bulk of work amid the amazing comeback story from when the Sabres were 10 points out and sitting in 12th place in December.
Let’s not pretend to forget the fact that Miller has a tremendous amount of playoff experience, not to mention Olympic experience. It wasn’t long ago that Miller was earning MVP honors in that tournament featuring the greatest assembly of players in the hockey world. He earned that on a Silver Medal team. You don’t get more “clutch” than that – it’s akin to stealing the Conn Smythe trophy as a member of the losing team in the Cup Finals.
Meanwhile, Enroth was toiling away in Portland, in the AHL. His numbers there are far from stunning. Not to take away from Jhonas – I love the guy as much as any other fan, but I also have been tracking him for years. Bear with me, and look at the big picture:
The debate should end right here – a 20-17-2 record in the AHL does not scream “start this guy now!” in the NHL playoffs. (Hats off to David “Leggo’ My Eggo” Leggio of Williamsville for stealing the statistical limelight this season, by the way.)
As for that Lightning game tonight, we’ll be seeing Enroth between the pipes again. If you are so breathlessly convinced that you must see Enroth in action for the Sabres, then you better not miss this game – it just might be his last in the NHL for a long time. Miller looks to be ready to go before the regular season is up.
“There isn’t any doubt that Ryan is the No. 1.”
That quote comes directly from Lindy Ruff, addressing the goaltending battle – as if he needed to.
If the Sabres make the playoffs, remember that it will be upon the season’s work of Ryan Miller that they do. A few games from Enroth sure do help, but a few games do not a season make.
The Sabres have a prolific offense, and with Ryan Miller between the pipes, present themselves as a major problem to any higher seed that they face. It’s a team that is empowered by the push and the ability to upset the top teams, one that will worry opposing coaches and players before every puck drop. Take that same Sabres team, and insert a rookie netminder, and suddenly those same opponents are chomping at the bit to tear the Sabres apart.
Case closed, folks.
Let’s leave the silliness behind us and just enjoy Enroth’s courageous stand.
UPDATE: There is actually a poll on Facebook, if you’re feeling silly enough to vote in it. It’s gathered up only 54 voters so far.
Meanwhile, it does seem like the debate is distracting enough for Lindy Ruff to actually engage a live radio audience over the topic: