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Scouting Jhonas Enroth: Chatting With The Goalie Guild

03/07/11
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Sabres fans know the name Jhonas Enroth. He’s the farm team’s number one goalie and is being groomed to replace Patrick Lalime as Ryan Miller’s full time back-up. I recently chatted with The Goalie Guild’s Justin Goldman about Enroth and the unique situation he’s found himself in this season. We finished up after Enroth’s triumphant performance in goal against the Wild last night.

Hit the jump for the convo.


(As always, my parts are bolded and my guest’s are italicized)

First, can you give Sabres fans a scouting report on Jhonas Enroth from your expert perspective?

Enroth, as I’m sure most Sabres fans have seen this year, is a technically sound goalie that has tremendous speed, agility and quickness. As a smaller-framed Swede, he relies on great reflexes, fast feet and active hands in order to make saves. His footwork is one of his biggest strengths, as it allows him to recover from the butterfly and then move laterally – both on his knees and on his skates – to stop rebound opportunities. He is also very good at scrambling and finding the puck through traffic.

Enroth thrives as a smaller goalie due to his ability to challenge shooters by playing higher in his crease and eliminating space. Furthermore, he also does a great job of keeping his hands out in front of his body, so as to eliminate more time and space on high shots. Enroth has also displayed some strong mental toughness this year, as he has become more comfortable playing in a Sabres uniform with every game he has played. Winning his first three games by way of a shootout is a terrific example of this, and it’s a great sign of things to come.

The main thing to look for when watching Enroth is not HOW he makes saves, but WHERE he’s making them. If he’s at the top or just outside his crease, he’s playing with confidence and challenging effectively. If he’s caught inside the blue paint, he’s exposing too much of the net, so shooters have more time and space to pick their spot. This is also a sign that he may not be playing with the level of confidence needed to be successful. This is the most important aspect of his game and is the plight of the smaller goalie – they have to travel longer distances to eliminate the same amount of space as a bigger goalie. Because of this, they have to move faster and be more patient. Fortunately, Enroth has the quickness and speed to thrive, which is even more impressive.

Your readers should check out the report we published after his big OT win in Montreal back in mid-February here. The Audio Report discusses some of the finer aspects of Enroth’s style and breaks down his performance in that game. Overall, I think he’s a great prospect that has proven he can thrive in the NHL despite being a small goalie. He’s more than ready and capable of being Ryan Miller’s full-time backup next season.

A bunch of Sabres fans have been been clamoring for Enroth and Patrick Lalime to switch positions. Can you explain why leaving Lalime on the Sabres’ bench and Enroth in Portland is better for his development?

Simply put, Lalime can’t be expected to play well and win big games when he hasn’t played in months. He’s rusty, he’s not comfortable and he’s not in any kind of a rhythm. Enroth is not only improving his skills by playing most of the games in Portland, but he’s not rusty at all. He’s in a good rhythm, he’s much more comfortable than Lalime, and therefore he’s a much better option for the Sabres when Miller needs a night off. This is a very unique situation that I’ve never really witnessed before, but it makes sense and it’s a good move. It does make Lalime seem “worthless” or incapable, but most goalies in Lalime’s situation would seem that way. He has handed it well and does what he can to be a good teammate.

Enroth is the first NHL goaltender in history to earn both of his first two wins via the shootout, and in fact he claimed his third the exact same way. What is it about the Enroth that makes him such a good fit for the shootout?

There are two parts to this answer. First of all, Enroth does an excellent job of challenging shooter, staying patient and matching their approaching speed. He’s been aggressive on most shootout chances and has the foot speed and quickness to react at the last second. He thrives on this by trying to wait for the shooter to make the first move, then he relies on his quickness to make a flashy toe save, or snag a puck out of the air. But technically speaking, his quick feet and the ability to read plays are the keys to his success in the shootout.

Secondly, there’s no book on Enroth right now, which is always an advantage for the goalie. Very few NHL shooters have played against him, so there’s no scouting report on him – shooters don’t know his tendencies. This is a dynamic that is seen with almost every rookie goalie (think James Reimer, Sergei Bobrovsky and Corey Crawford, just to name a few). They come “out of nowhere” and experience great success because other teams and shooters don’t really know what kind of goalie they are facing, or where his strengths or weaknesses lie. Over time, however, shooters learn these tendencies and the goalie will come back down to earth or suffer from that dreaded “sophomore slump” that we’ve been seeing a ton of lately.

Thanks to Justin for spending some time to discuss the Sabres’ top goaltending prospect with me! Check out his work at The Goalie Guild and follow him on Twitter (@TheGoalieGuild) to get running commentary on the goaltenders he happens to be watching on any given night.

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