BUFFALO — Jhonas Enroth’s starts quickly became anticipated, must- see events. The Sabres goalie couldn’t lose. Not late last season. Not early this one.
Fans clamored for more appearances from Enroth. They wanted the rookie backup, not established starter Ryan Miller, carrying the load.
Dating back to last season, Enroth had won nine straight decisions by early November, including his first six in 2011-12.
Then, suddenly, the 23-year-old stopped winning – and playing. He started only six of the final 42 games, becoming a spare part.
Incredibly, Enroth hasn’t won a game since Nov. 26.
“Ryan was playing really well down the stretch here the last couple months,” Enroth said Monday inside the First Niagara Center as the Sabres cleaned out their lockers. “I guess you can’t really bench Miller when he’s playing that well. It is what it is. I was hoping for 30 games this year – almost.”
Enroth played 26 times, going 8-11-4 with a 2.70 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and one shutout.
He began his first full NHL campaign scorching, posting dynamic numbers – 1.76 and .942 – in eight games during his winning streak.
But he slumped badly – 0-8-3, 3.19 and .908 – after his last win.
Why did Enroth’s play dip so much?
“I don’t know. That’s a tough question,” Enroth said. “I guess over the last (part) of the season we started to have a lot of injuries. That’s probably where I started to lose my confidence a little bit. But I think I had a bunch of good games after that, too. But I didn’t really come away with the wins in those games.”
By the late November, Enroth, normally one of the coolest customers around, began looking frustrated following games. He said he gained much of his confidence back with some solid appearances after Christmas.
Despite the weak finish, Enroth has showcased some qualities of a No. 1 netminder. He’s unsure if he’s reached that level yet, though.