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The Sabres Observer

Goaltending Matchup Won’t End Miller Debate

With two elite netminders battling it out in the Stanley Cup Finals, I’d like to think that maybe the cheap-goaltending-is-better silliness is going to get a well-deserved reprieve.

That’s not likely to happen in Buffalo in the foreseeable future, however, thanks in large part to the storied 15-game NHL career of Jhonas Enroth.

Brian Koziol of WGR-550 sanely wrote today that Ryan Miller is still the answer in Buffalo, although his piece that touched on the ubiquitous debate concerning the Sabres franchise goaltender wasn’t without its share of pure gold:

“While I think it’s insane to be able to have any clear judgment on Enroth’s success in the NHL, there were plenty of people who called into the postgame show during the playoffs and other WGR talk shows about why Lindy Ruff didn’t play Enroth and rotate “the hot goalie” as Peter Laviolette did with the Flyers.”

There you have it, folks.  Ruff should be ashamed of himself for not adhering to that innovative goaltending carousel-riding strategy that helped carry the Philadelphia Flyers through the playoffs.

Considering this is the same town where a large contingent of fans and media wanted Frank Reich to supplant Jim Kelly as starting quarterback of the Bills while the team was doing nothing but going to the Super Bowl every year, I suppose this brilliant Miller-benching epiphany shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Hey, I understand.  A 1-0 shutout in a playoff game with the top scoring team in the East swarming your inexperienced defense is overrated.  Even if it happens twice.

It’s noteworthy that the Miller-Enroth subplot isn’t just the creation of some crazy fans who love to complain, but also some mainstream radio and print pros who harped on it all season.  I’d like to think they’ll take Miller’s body of work in the 2011 postseason under advisement.

Until the Sabres can acquire players in the same class as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Daniel Briere and Chris Pronger, I’ll stick with the goalie I have now.  And with the salary cap expected to exceed $62M, it’s not like there still won’t be enough room for major upgrades.

The performance of a healthy Miller against the Flyers should have put to bed any thoughts of the Sabres pursuing a Stanley Cup without him.  Subpar injury-plagued regular seasons notwithstanding, it was a ridiculous idea all along.

Follow The Sabres Observer on Twitter: @DaveDavisHockey

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Just to support your strong argument that Ryan Miller-shedding would be lunacy, I’d like to point out how unwise it is to bank on a young goalie who had great success early in his career.
Of all the goalies who have ever played, the one who got off to the best start ever (16 games without being beaten in regulation), was a fellow named Patrick Lalime. Jonas Enroth can ask him about fast starts vs. staying power in the NHL. 
Countless GMs have made the mistake of dumping veteran goalies in favor of young flashes in the pan - flashes like Andrew Raycroft, Jim Carey, Steve Penney, Pascal Leclaire and Vesa Toskala. Those same GMs followed up the move later with a more desperate goalie change. And another. Buffalo fans might notice that their Enroth love feels a lot like their Darren Puppa love.
In Miller, you have a guy who’s proven he can compete at a very high level for years. They don’t come around that often.
Conversely, there have been cases in which good goalies haven’t been given the chance to really show their stuff (Dominik Hasek in Chicago is a great example).
In any event, no determination on what Enroth or David Leggio (almost identical numbers in Portland this season) can do is fair until they’ve been given a real chance to show what they can do. Keep Miller where he is until you know what you have.

blank stare

Posted by CMdown from Olean, NY on 06/09/11 at 01:42 PM ET

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About The Sabres Observer

Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003.  He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene.  Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.

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Email: dd@kuklaskorner.com Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]