Emerging Enroth About To Add To His Battle-Tested Season
It’s very likely that Jhonas Enroth will start both Sabres games this weekend (@WAS, @CAR), and while there is a reasonable right to be concerned with the rookie netminder receiving a back-to-back series against two tough opponents, recent history shows the young Swede can handle the pressure.
Even the most casual Sabres fan on the planet can you tell you how Enroth’s first three victories came: the shootout. In one case, he backstopped the team down two goals in regulation and then two goals down in the shootout to victory. His fourth win came by way of overtime, with his fifth NHL win being his first in regulation. Most recently, he pitched the first shutout of his career on Tuesday. And while he did perform less than admirably in one of his wins (allowing 4 goals vs OTT with a SV% of .895), he’s also played sterling hockey in defeat (1 goal allowed vs PIT with a SV% of .966).
The stress that comes with being a rookie goalie must be amplified astronomically when situations such as overtime or the shootout present themselves, and yet Enroth has a winning percentage of 83% in extra time. How about shutting down the previously white-hot Rangers in what was the biggest game of the year by far? To step in cold after 17 days of not playing and slam the door shut against a team previously higher in the standings takes intense mental fortitude and clarity.
Yes, the Buffalo Sabres would be better served to have their star goalie in the crease for one or both of these season-defining games (with some help, a regulation sweep of the weekend clinches their playoff spot), but the overwhelming chances are that they won’t. Their next best option is the impossibly-calm former Södertälje (Swedish Elitserien) goaltender, and he’s a damn good option. He’s hot, shooters don’t have the book on him yet, and he’s performed more than capably under the gun.
Enroth is going to learn a tremendous amount about performing at the highest level in hockey this weekend, and for the first time in years, Sabres fans can rest assured that they’ve got a decent chance to see their team win with a goalie other than #30 in net.