Sweet, Swede Jhonas
It would be really sweet if the Buffalo Sabres make the playoffs this year, completing a spectacular run since the New Year after seemingly being out of contention. Or should I say it'd be very Swede?
With Ryan Miller sidelined with an undisclosed upper body injury this past week, the Sabres turned to Jhonas Enroth and grabbed 5 out of 6 total points to jump the New York Rangers for the 7th spot in the Eastern Conference. With no timetable on Miller's return, it could be Enroth starting in a 1st round playoff matchup.
With the way he played this past week, there's an unusual calm over the Blue and Gold faithful with Miller out. They believe in Enroth, just as Head Coach Lindy Ruff does, and there is very good reason to. The young Swedish goaltender was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week as he went 2-0-1 with a 1.94 GAA and .936 save percentage. He even stopped all 23 shots in a 1-0 win over the Rangers for his first career shutout.
"I couldn't have asked for better timing. My parents are actually here watching their first game over here so it was a lot of fun. It was a very special night for me tonight," he told reporters after the game.
After getting the short end of the stick (no pun intended) Saturday night in Washington as the Sabres blew a late lead and skated flat in overtime, Enroth more than filled Miller's skates Sunday evening in a huge 2-1 win in OT at Carolina.
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He stopped 35 of 36, including a mask-less save 5 minutes into the second period on Jussi Jokinen. Jeff Skinner skated back up to the circle and turned and threw the puck on net where it bounced right to Jokinen's stick. Enroth's mask flung off and he still managed to get across the crease and stop the stuff attempt with the toe of his skate. It was easily the biggest save of the Sabres season and may have single handedly saved it as the win gave them a point lead over New York and a 3 point cushion over the Hurricanes. Each team has 3 games remaining.
Since Ruff lost his faith in backup Patrick Lalime back in Early November (or arguably, long before that), Enroth has been 7-2-2 with a 2.53 GAA and .915 save percentage. He's won some huge games for his team, including his first 3 wins in shootouts, becoming the first in goalie in the post lockout era to do so. His wins have been timely and he has obviously gained the trust and respect of his teammates, who have notoriously skated flat and uninspired in front of Lalime, who is 0-5 this season.
"If you know Jhonas, he's a pretty calm and quiet guy," said defenseman Mike Weber. "He's in it all the time. He thinks through the game extremely well, and he's kind of like [Miller] in that way. When they get into a zone things can turn pretty special pretty quick."
He's in it alright, and he's got the Sabres in it, too. He may be calm and quiet, but he's got Buffalo making a lot of noise. The rest of the East would be wise to listen in.
By: Tim Hoskinson
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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