Tag: Patrick Lalime

Jhonas Enroth

Sabres re-sign Jhonas Enroth to be Ryan Miller’s backup for two more years


Playing goal in the NHL is a tough job for goalies of all varieties. Starters have to be sharp night in and night out to both keep their team winning and to keep their job. In cases like Buffalo where Ryan Miller is the #1 guy no matter what, being his backup means playing flawlessly when you do get a start and giving coach Lindy Ruff the confidence to give you more starts so Miller can be better rested for the playoffs.

In Jhonas Enroth’s case, his play while both Miller and then backup Patrick Lalime were hurt did just that and he was rewarded for it today signing a two-year deal with Buffalo. Enroth will go into his new deal as the full-time backup to Miller and when he got a chance to play last season, he managed to put Lalime out of a job and earned himself a spot in the everyday lineup for the Sabres.

Enroth is a guy who has grown up in the Sabres system and while the Sabres kept him in the AHL for most of last season, when he was called upon he provided the steady play that Lalime could not. In 14 games, Enroth went 9-2-2 with a 2.73 goals against average and a .907 save percentage. For a backup goalie, those numbers are decent and given how “average” Miller was last season, it wasn’t too much of a departure from what he was providing as the starter. Enroth also earned one shutout last season, his first in the NHL.

While the Sabres figure Miller will return more to his elite level of play next season, Enroth’s job will be to continue being solid in relieving Miller and keeping him rested up for a playoff run later in the year. If Enroth plays as well as he’s capable, Miller should be able to stay fresh for the season. Last year, Miller came off looking rusty and tired at times and given his playoff and Olympic workload from the season before that, it’s understandable.

This time around, he’s got a long summer to rest up and no added Team USA hangover to deal with either. In other words, things are looking up in goal in Buffalo and having Enroth be the solid backup would make life a lot easier for the Sabres.

Report: Patrick Lalime set to retire from NHL

Patrick Lalime

According to various sources, Buffalo Sabres goalie Patrick Lalime is primed to retire after playing 444 regular season games and earning 200 wins. Lalime also had 21 wins in 41 career playoff contests, making for a solid career considering the fact that he was a sixth round pick (156th overall) in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.

Lalime began his career on fire. He set an NHL record with a 16-game unbeaten streak, going 14-0-2 to begin his days with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 1996-97 season. That run helped him earn the top goalie spot on the All-Rookie team. Things went south for him after that, though, as he finished that season with a 21-12-2 record and was unable to earn NHL-level playing time with either the Penguins or Anaheim Ducks.

It wasn’t until he became a member of the Ottawa Senators in 1999-2000 that his career blossomed once again. Lalime went 146-100-30 and appeared in 283 regular games during that five-year span with the Senators, certainly marking the high point of his career. He became an All-Star in 2002-03 and earned 39 wins that season, the second most in the NHL.

Things fell apart once he left Ottawa, though. He had a lousy season with the St. Louis Blues, struggled but at least sustained his career during a couple seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and then finished his career with three seasons with the Sabres. The 2010-11 season gave obvious evidence to his waning relevance as an NHL backup; he went 0-5-0 in seven games played and gave way to Jhonas Enroth when the team was charging toward a playoff berth despite an injury to Ryan Miller. To many, he was basically a glorified goalie coach during the second half of the season.

Some might look at his playoff days with Ottawa as a set of letdowns (especially those who watch Jeff Friesen’s big goal against him during the 2003 Eastern Conference finals in an endless loop), but his overall postseason numbers are fantastic. His 21-20 record doesn’t do his individual output justice; his .926 save percentage and 1.77 GAA are absolutely sparkling.

If those reports of his retirement are indeed true – and it would be surprising to see him in the NHL again – then he should be remembered as an overachiever who helped Ottawa become a contender. He was one of the most well-liked goalies of his time, so chances are, if he wants to stay in the game in some capacity (as a coach or commentator) then he’ll probably find a place. It wouldn’t be surprising if he ended up being better than anyone expected in that role, either; overachieving seems to be what Lalime is best at.

Ryan Miller misses practice, status for big two-game road trip uncertain

Ryan Miller

The Buffalo Sabres might run the risk of playing one of the most important stretches of their 2010-11 season without far and away their most important player.

That’s not a sure thing by any means, but the fact that TSN reports that the all-world goalie Ryan Miller was unable to practice casts some doubt on whether or not he will join the team during their two-game road trip. The Sabres play the Capitals in Washington on Saturday and then play an especially big game against the Hurricanes on Sunday.

Buffalo is currently in seventh place with 87 points and five games remaining on their schedule. While they are certainly keeping an eye on the eight-place New York Rangers (87 points with four games left), it’s the ninth-place Canes who pose the biggest problem. Carolina has 84 points on the season and also has five games left on their schedule.

If Carolina beats Buffalo during regulation, that would close the gap to within one point (not counting what happens in the next two days, of course).

Losing Miller would greatly increase the Sabres’ odds of coughing up their slim lead over Carolina, but again, he could miss practice but still tough it out in the games themselves.

In the event that Miller does sit out games, Jhonas Enroth is more likely to carry the torch rather than Patrick Lalime. Enroth earned a 23-save shutout in Buffalo’s 1-0 win against the New York Rangers on Wednesday, but is relatively unproven with a 6-2-1 record this season.

Buffalo will only say that Miller has an upper-body injury according to TSN, so it’s anyone’s guess how long he will be out. Keep your eye on PHT for updates on his condition tomorrow.

Ryan Miller out of tonight’s game against Rangers with upper body injury

Ryan Miller

Potentially playoff-hope ruining news out of Buffalo.

Sabres goalie Ryan Miller is out of tonight’s game with an upper body injury. Jhonas Enroth will get the call in goal tonight against the Rangers as the Sabres have a crucial game tonight. With a win, the Sabres can catch up to the Rangers for the seventh seed in the East. With a loss, it opens the door for Carolina to get to within a point of eighth should they beat Montreal tonight and the Sabres lose.

The Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington has the story.

There is no word on the nature or severity of the injury but it’s believed to be an upper-body situation. Miller did take a slapshot from Dion Phaneuf to the collarbone area with 14:48 left in the third period of Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss at Toronto. He also took a Brian Rolston slapshot directly on the mask in the first period of Saturday’s 2-0 win over New Jersey.

The shot Miller took last night from Phaneuf caught him up high around the collarbone and stunned him for a bit late in the game. While there’s no word on what, exactly, Miller’s injury is it could not come at a worse time for the Sabres as they’re teetering on the edge of losing their grip on a playoff spot. While Miller could certainly stand to get a break here down the stretch, having it come this way is not reassuring in any way.

Patrick Lalime will serve as Enroth’s backup more than likely. If the Sabres needed more of a reason to get focused tonight, they’ve got it now. Fortunately for them Enroth has done well in the few starts he’s made this season going 5-2-1 with a 2.78 goals against average and a .906 save percentage.

Buckle up Buffalo fans, things just got a lot more interesting in all the wrong ways.

Hockey Day Preview: Ryan Miller struggles to carry Sabres again

Ryan Miller

When you’re on the streak of a lifetime, it’s important not to ask silly questions like “How can I possibly follow this up?” or “Will I ever reach these heights again?” Instead, you just ride the wave of success as far as it will take you and hope that you can navigate those currents once again when things go back to normal.

Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews were among the players who had incredible 2010 runs, but Ryan Miller’s year stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of them. You might already know about his accomplishments already, but if not, here’s a quick rundown:

  • He (fairly easily) won the Vezina Trophy for the 2009-10 season.
  • Miller’s stellar goaltending powered the U.S. Olympic team to overachieve their way to a silver medal, as the team fell one iconic overtime gold medal winning goal away from the highest glory.
  • Miller was the catalyst for the Sabres’ surprising Northeast Division title run, even if the team fell short in the first round against the Boston Bruins.

It’s the kind of complete year that is hard to top, something that probably isn’t lost on the talented goalie as he struggles mightily during the 2010-11 campaign.

The drop-off

Miller only lost 18 games in regulation during each of the 08-09 and 09-10 seasons. He could match that mark already if the Sabres lose to the Washington Capitals today. After earning a career-high 92.9 save percentage behind a spotty Buffalo defense, he’s down to 91 percent this season (slightly lower than his career average of 91.4). He also has the highest goals against average (2.74) of any season in which he played 40 or more games, although he has time to move that below his career-worst mark of 2.73 from 06-07.

Buffalo might be making strides in the standings, but that probably has more to do with Drew Stafford’s recent offensive outburst than a significant improvement from Miller. In fact, judging from his split stats, February’s been his worst month with an average GAA of 3.11 and 89.2 save percentage. (It’s the only month in which his GAA is above three and his save percentage is below 90 percent.)

So, we’ve established the fact that Miller is falling far short of his possibly unsustainable 09-10 output. But the questions are: why is he struggling and is he still an elite goalie?

Explaining his struggles

If you ask me, it all comes down to the fact that Buffalo put way too much pressure on Miller to be one of the absolute best goalies on a nightly basis. The team’s defense wasn’t exactly outstanding last season, but they allowed steady-if-unspectacular mainstays Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder go for less proven replacements. They also assumed that Tyler Myers could match his breakthrough rookie season, which is asking a lot from a young player who is probably still growing into his lanky frame.

A shaky defense already puts Miller in a tough spot, but a lack of a go-to backup places even more weight on the American netminder’s shoulders. While the Rangers gave their workhorse goalie Henrik Lundqvist a capable backup in Martin Biron and the Devils invested in solid No. 2 Johan Hedberg for Martin Brodeur, the Sabres stuck with a second banana they clearly don’t trust in Patrick Lalime.

Lalime has appeared in seven games this season, going a nauseating 0-5-0 with a 2.96 GAA and 89 save percentage. The team’s lack of trust in Lalime and excessive reliance on Miller was clear when Jhonas Enroth relieved their No. 1 goalie after Miller played 31 consecutive games.


The Sabres skimped on a decent backup and assumed that Miller could clean up the messes of an even more fragile defense. Does that mean that his struggles are all Buffalo’s fault? No, some of it falls at Miller’s feet, but the team put him in a position to fail this season.

Buffalo can still make the playoffs and Miller is far from a lost cause, but the team would be wise to improve their suspect defense and take advantage of what should be a buyer’s market for reliable backups this summer. (Or even during the trade deadline … Ty Conklin and Chris Phillips, anyone?)