Buffalo - December 9, 2014 - We live in a world of snap judgments and surface decisions. See something, determine your opinion on it without digging any further.
In that case, it’s easy to say that Jhonas Enroth isn’t standing out much in Buffalo. But to anyone who has sat down to watch the Buffalo Sabres’ netminder in action this year, they know that’s far from the case.
Granted, the Sabres are the NHL’s worst team even after riding a winning streak where they claimed six of seven. But it’s been the play of Enroth that has grabbed the attention of Buffalo fans and their opponents alike.
On the surface, his numbers aren’t all that impressive: 6-10-1 record, .913 save percentage and 3.08 goals against average. When you do a little digging? That’s when things get a little interesting.
In the short-term, he’s been dominant. Over his last seven starts, he’s seen 227 shots and stopped 213 of them, good for a .938 save percentage over that span. It’s little wonder the Sabres were riding so high over that stretch.
Over the course of the season, his numbers get a little more interesting. His .913 save percentage is league average, but it’s interesting for two reasons: the Sabres penalty kill and general goal support. When killing the man advantage, Enroth’s save percentage is just .797%. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a sub-.800 percentage in one special teams area can really damage his overall percentage. The Sabres started strong in this category and have since plummeted to 23rd, killing off 78.1% of their penalties.
Goal support is the bigger issue of the two. Enroth has lost five decisions where he’s allowed three or fewer goals (he’s also won the other six where he’s done the same), only allowing more than two in a pair of those starts. Moreso, the Sabres offense has been comically bad all year aside from that hot stretch. At 1.59 goals per game, they’re over a full half goal per game behind the 29th-ranked team, who averages 2.18 goals per game. That’s 41 goals over the course of a year. Doesn’t sound like much, but the difference is huge. Their power play is just as bad, clicking at a paltry 6.6%, nearly half the rate of the next worst team (11%). Enroth can only do so much; if he can figure out how to score goals, he might be able to win a few games literally by himself.
Having said that, his even-strength numbers speak volumes. Enroth is sitting at a .932 even-strength save percentage, putting him 16th overall in that category and 7th among goalies with at least 10 starts. What makes that stat even more incredible is this: the Sabres are still awful at defense. Check it: when Enroth is on the ice, he faces the most shots per 60 minutes of anyone in the league at 33.7. As a team, the Sabres allow the most shots per night at 36.1(!!). They’ve been outshot in 23 of the 27 games they’ve played. Couple that with their league-low 19.9 shots per 60 when he’s on the ice and you see a discrepancy that would crush most goaltenders, but Enroth seems to be thriving in the face of that.
Back in 2012, Broadstreet Hockey took a swing at something called adjusted save percentage. Basically, it works as such: (1 – league average save percentage) / (1 – goalie’s save percentage) * 100. So league leader Pekka Rinne’s .931 save percentage comes out to a 126, meaning he’s 26% better than average. Enroth’s is 100, putting him as “average”. But his even strength adjusted save percentage? That clocks in at 116, meaning he is 16% better than average in 5-on-5 situations. That’s better than Marc-Andre Fleury, better than Carey Price, better than Tuukka Rask, better than Ben Bishop.
More importantly than that, when you watch him, he looks like a legit #1 man in the NHL. He plays with confidence, challenging shooters, making save after save after save. In shootouts, especially of late, he has this supreme air of confidence to him, almost seeming unchallenged by anything a shooter can present him. The best of the best have that air to them. Enroth has it now.
Simply put: Jhonas Enroth has been as good as just about anyone in the league in 5-on-5 situations, despite his team being woefully outshot every single night. He gets in trouble against the man advantage, but isn’t that supposed to be the point of the power play? To give favor to the offensive team?
It’s been easy to ignore Enroth this year because he doesn’t have the traditional stats that jump out at you. But when you dig a little deeper, you find one thing: not only is Enroth a legit NHL starter, he’s one of the better starters around.
Now if the Sabres could work on being a little better defensively, better on the penalty kill, get more pucks on net…well, you get the idea.
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