I don't exactly know where to start on Patrick Lalime. When he had first come to the Buffalo Sabres in the 2008-2009 season, I didn't know much about the guy. All I knew was that he was a veteran goaltender who had previously had stints with Pittsburgh, Ottawa, St. Louis and Chicago. At the time when Ryan Miller went down and Lalime was in for quite a few games, I felt sorry for him. It wasn't because it was the backup being thrown into a starting role all of the sudden. I had a feeling that if things didn't go well for him or for the team, HE would be blamed for losses and the possibility of not making the playoffs. That's exactly what happened.
From what I can remember, he only won four games out of a thirteen game stretch that Miller was out. Was it all his fault? No of course not. Can he be blamed for some games? Maybe. The thing that has irked me with this team is that you can tell they don't play to their full potential in front of the backup. With Miller behind them, they know they don't have to worry much about a puck being stopped if they screw up. With a backup, it's like it's a whole new thing. They don't know who is back there. The forwards can't keep possession of the puck if their lives depended on it, and the defense seems to have brain farts all over the place. A backup goaltender needs more support than that, and Lalime never seemed to got it last season. Not making the playoffs last season was not his fault (and this is for those that might blame him. Get over it, it's a new year.)
This season seemed to be entirely different. Now, after Lalime had his short stint in Portland we began to notice changes. He got progressively better because he had played often in a short amount of time. The boys seemed to be comfortable with him in the net and they were starting to help him more often. He wasn't hung out to dry on goals and he was making spectacular saves. It was as if a new team (so to speak) had begun to show up in front of us when Miller wasn't in net.
The Minnesota game was a HUGE back step from all that Lalime had done. There were the boo birds chiming down on him because he let in three goals against a weak Wild group. Not even the two goals from Vanek late in the third period could soften that for anyone. The boos continued as you left the arena. Drew Stafford's Twitter account later read that evening as such:
Why is that such a big deal? How could a teammate who didn't even play that night, saying how the backup is the hardest worker on the team possibly mean something? It's the fact that someone said anything. Then Steve Montador said something. Then Miller mentioned it too. This is no time to hash out the 'accountability' word with me because I think standing up for your teammates is one of the most important things to do when you're on a professional sports team. The players didn't have to say a thing about what had happened. The fact they did goes a long way for the guy who was the victim. Again, I think the players realize that maybe they're the reason he can't win a game. The fact they cannot play consistently well in front of him might be getting to their heads.
Lalime was able to win his 200th game and make sure the Sabres clinched the playoffs in the same night. No one remembers it was the backup who did it, but why should they have to? I remember it because I believe in him and I know he's a great goaltender. That's why it matters to me. It was like redemption; having him come back from those jeers and being able to win a game that meant something for the fans. It's not like we wouldn't have won another game had he not won that one, but it was still special to see him clinch the spot.
With him re-signing here, I have seen nothing but mass amounts of hatred towards it. News flash Sabreland: Jhonas Enroth isn't ready for the big time yet and Marty Biron wouldn't have come back anyways. Lalime was our best bet and I think Darcy made the right decision in keeping him for another year. People are complaining about how he's just 'not great' and again,
bring up how we should've signed Biron. It's the life of a Sabres fan, thinking about what was and they're just STUCK IN THE PAST. When both Chris Drury's and Daniel Briere's contracts are up, I guarantee people are going to petition for those two to come back in a Sabres uniform. Get over it, people.
Also, if my Olympic goaltender is giving a shout out to a certain guy for helping him grow and keeping him happy, I'm on board to keep him around. If only to keep Miller happy, but also because of the locker room presence and the reliability. Before you completely throw him under the bus, give him another chance. Your starting goaltender always believed - you should too.