Tag: backup goalie questions

Chicago Blackhawks v Pittsburgh Penguins

Ray Emery looks to find a home

One of the better battles to watch in training camps this year has been in Chicago for the back-up goaltending spot. The Hawks went out and gave Ray Emery a professional tryout with the team to see if he could earn a spot behind Corey Crawford this season. It’s a no risk situation for the organization as Emery looks to prove that he he’s more suited for the role than rookie Alexander Salak. If he succeeds, the team can give him a short-term contract and let him prove his worth over the course of the season. If he fails to impress in the preseason, then the Hawks show the door and the move forward with Salak.

There’s no pressure whatsoever for the Hawks. For Emery, on the other hand, he only has a few weeks to prove to Chicago that he’s worth longer commitment. Allowing four goals on fourteen shots in the third period isn’t exactly the impression he wanted to make last night. Even though the goals can be attributed to shoddy defense more than poor goaltending, everyone knows that it’s a work in progress. Emery acknowledged the positives:

“I actually felt better tonight than I did the other night [against the Edmonton Oilers],” Emery said. “I’ve got to try and control rebounds and deflections. I thought it was a tough-luck situation. But you can always find things to improve on.”

Whether the goals were his fault or the teams in front of him, Emery had a bit of a sense of humor about the tough-luck nature of the loss:

“I feel better, my hands are feeling better,” he said. “It’d be nice to see it translate into a game here but you have to get the tough ones out of the way I guess.”

It certainly doesn’t help his cause that Salak has played well this offseason. Salak has only given up one goal while playing half of each of Chicago’s first two preseason games. On the other hand, Emery has given up six goals in about the same amount of game action. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has already acknowledged that they’ll judge him on more than just a single period, but he’ll only have so many opportunities to impress as Corey Crawford will get some playing time to work into game shape.

So what happens if Salak beats out Emery for the backup spot on the Blackhawks? Emery proved down the stretch last season with the Ducks that he’s certainly capable of playing at the NHL level. Not only did he play well, he (along with Corey Perry), put the team on his back and helped carry Anaheim to home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. He posted a 7-2 record with a .926 save percentage and 2.28 goals against average. Those are the numbers of a man who deserves a shot somewhere.

Many people will remember Emery from his high-profile (and headline grabbing) tenures in Ottawa and Philadelphia. Back then, he was a highly talented goaltender that still had plenty of maturing to do. After a career threatening degenerative hip condition, invasive surgery, and painful recovery process, the present-day Emery bears little resemblance to the man who wore his jersey earlier in his career. There must be a spot in league for a player with his perseverance, right?

If things don’t turn out the way he’d like in Chicago, don’t be surprised if he catches on somewhere else this season. San Jose has its share if injury problems in net with Antti Niemi recovering from a cyst removal and Antero Niittymaki out for twelve weeks. There are always teams looking for veteran back-ups—specifically veterans who don’t cost much money. Look around the league and Emery is a good, proven, cheap option that someone should express interest in.

If nothing else, he deserves a chance to show what he can do in games that count this season. If last year proved anything, it’s that he knows how to battle when the games matter.

After 31 straight starts, Buffalo’s Ryan Miller will finally rest; Enroth gets start over Lalime

Buffalo Sabres v New York Islanders

It’s been a long time since Ryan Miller hasn’t started a game for the Buffalo Sabres. Miller has started every game since November 26th and the last time a goalie not named Ryan Miller started was November 24th when rookie Jhonas Enroth started and lost a 1-0 game to Pittsburgh.

Tonight when the Sabres face the Canadiens in Montreal, Ryan Miller will be wearing the baseball cap on the bench rather than starting on the ice but it won’t be his backup Patrick Lalime that gets the call to start. Instead, Enroth will be back up from the AHL to get the start. (Update: Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News reports that Miller will not even suit up, Lalime will back up Enroth)

If you’re wondering why Patrick Lalime is even playing in Buffalo if he’s not trusted enough to even get a start when it’s finally time you’re not alone as Buffalo News columnist Jerry Sullivan says that if Lalime is getting skipped now after working Miller like a dog, perhaps Enroth should just stay for good.

I’d go with Enroth for the rest of the season. Enroth played better than Lalime early in the year. Early in November, he won back-to-back games in shootouts when the Sabres were 3-9-2 and there was speculation about Ruff’s job. Enroth lost, 1-0, to the Penguins.

If the Sabres are serious about making a playoff push, they need a reliable backup. They can’t keep pretending Miller is a superstar, capable of carrying a team by himself. They need to find out about Enroth. Either that, or trade for a proven backup before the deadline.

The Sabres are about to enter a brutal stretch of games in which they’ll play 16 in the next 29 days. Giving Miller a night off here before likely playing again on Wednesday against Toronto makes sense, but if the Sabres plan on riding Miller as hard as they’ve been, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised if he has a few more off-nights like he had on Sunday afternoon against the Islanders when he surrendered seven goals in a 7-6 overtime loss.

That said, it seems silly that Lalime is even hanging around in the NHL still if he’s going to get passed over for starts when it’s obviously his time to get one. Coach Lindy Ruff’s confidence in Lalime is clearly very poor as he hasn’t had the guts to go with Lalime at all for a span of over two months to spell Miller for even a game here and there.

Miller’s opinion of Lalime is sky high and he’s been thankful for having Lalime as a teammate to provide veteran guidance as he said after winning the Vezina last season. But when it comes down to it, having a competent teammate might be more important than having a good friend to be the guy to help you out when you need a break. Lalime hasn’t been that guy, nor has he been given much of a chance to show it. If the Sabres are serious about getting to the playoffs ensuring that Miller can carry you is the team’s top priority and if Lalime isn’t the guy to get it done, then it’s time for him to go.