Somewhere, Punch Imlach Is Smiling

By Chris

Ryan Miller was solid again tonight with 38 saves. With his third shutout of the season, he’s been the league’s best goaltender this year, hands down.

It’s still a bit of a mystery as to why he started tonight against a team as pathetic as the Maple Leafs, but he made a statement on the national stage.

This is the best Miller has played at any point in his career. That includes his incredible playoff runs in 2006 and 2007. He’s certainly playing like an elite goalie right now and should be considered for the Hart Memorial Trophy as well as the Vezina.

The biggest concern is how long he can keep it going. Potentially, Miller will play the more hockey than he ever has before.

His workload has been heavy so far for the Sabres. Factor in the Olympic “break” where he’ll probably be starting for Team USA, the NHL stretch run and (hopefully) a deep playoff run and Miller could end up playing what amounts to two seasons worth of work.

Buffalo can’t afford to let Patrick Lalime collect dust on the bench. Lalime has started two games this year (Oct. 17 against Atlanta and Nov. 21 at Ottawa). He lost both games and the only other time he’s seen action was in the blowout loss to the Islanders on Halloween.

Lalime is a goalie who plays better when he plays a lot. He wasn’t horrible down the stretch last season when Miller was injured. He didn’t get a lot of help around him.

If Lindy Ruff has lost faith in him, then we’re looking at another Jocelyn Thibault situation — and that’s not good for anyone.

— Jochen Hecht had another good game tonight. He’s put together a string of nice games after being offensively sterile for most of the season.

Jason Pominville on the other hand continues to struggle. It seems as if he’s been in a funk ever since he signed that contract extension prior to last season. Maybe his 80-point 2007-08 season was an aberration. He’s on pace for 18 goals this year after netting 34, 27 and 20 in the last three. His projected point total (50) is just as bad.

— That guy’s The Monster? Henrik Tallinder, a guy we all put out to pasture in September scored on him. That’s not saying much.

–Ryan mentioned this during the game on Twitter, but it’s worth mentioning again. Ryan Miller really hates Phil Kessel.

–The Sabres enjoy a five-game home stand starting on Thursday against Montreal and Pat Kaleta is set to make his return to the line up. Things don’t get any easier with 15 games in December.

3 Comments

  1. Mark

    I think Ruff has lost faith in Lalime, and, frankly, I think it’s deserved. Lalime is 5-15-3 playing between the pipes for Buffalo, which is one of several reasons why the Sabres have missed the playoffs for 2 consecutive years.

    You aren’t the first to say that Lalime played well last season when he was asked to fill in for Miller, but I don’t remember that at all. I remember he had some nice games, but in general he was terrible. Lalime is an AHL caliber goalie now, and he doesn’t deserve the roster spot he has. I know he’s a nice guy and he adds value to the locker room, but the Sabres need a backup goaltender that can win AT LEAST 50% of their games. Lalime cannot do that.

    I’d rather see Enroth playing the role of back up (at least he will improve). I’d be interested to see what the Islanders do with Biron once DiPietro returns to the ice.

  2. Mark B

    I thought Lalime was pretty good in his spell late last season. I remember a couple rough games to start, but overall it was the team effort that let him down. But if the team can’t play as well in front of him as they do for Miller, perhaps it’s time for a change.

  3. But the team doesn’t always play well in front of Miller either, but he’s good enough to get the win anyway.