Miller a big advantage for Sabres against Flyers

Sabres goalie Ryan Miller is 21-10-5 since Jan. 1. He has led Buffalo to the conference finals twice in three playoffs.
Sabres goalie Ryan Miller is 21-10-5 since Jan. 1. He has led Buffalo to the conference finals twice in three playoffs.
Posted: April 14, 2011

Even among those in the vast regions of America where there is little or no interest in the NHL, Ryan Miller became a topic of conversation for two weeks in the winter of 2010.

He was the goalie for the United States at the Vancouver Olympics who lifted the team into the gold-medal game on his narrow shoulders, and America's sporting public loves when one of its own stands proudly on a world stage.

For the next one or two weeks, or for how long it takes the Flyers and Sabres to resolve a first-round Stanley Cup playoff series that begins Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center, Miller will again be a topic of conversation. For good reason. No player on either club has more ability to influence the series than the Buffalo goalie.

There's no denying the Sabres have the advantage over the Flyers at goalie, the most important position on the ice, and there's no denying Miller is a big-game stopper. So the Sabres will go as far as Miller takes them. He's capable of making the other matchups irrelevant.

"He's going to be the key to our team in any situation we're in," Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers said in a NationalPost.com report. "That's how good of a goalie he is. He's the backbone of the Sabres. It doesn't matter what playoff series, what game we're in, he's always the key."

Miller has proved the higher the stakes the better he is. He's been to the playoffs three times, and twice the Sabres reached the Eastern Conference finals. The one time he didn't reach the conference final, last season, Miller may have been worn down by playing in 69 regular-season games as well as the Olympics.

At the Olympics, he was 5-1 with a 1.35 goals-against average and .946 save percentage and the tourney MVP. The defeat came against Canada in the gold-medal game, when he had 36 saves in a 3-2 overtime loss. In the preliminary round, Miller stopped 42 of 45 shots in a shocking, 5-3 win over Canada. He's the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. In the first Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2008, he allowed one goal against Pittsburgh before losing a shootout.

When Buffalo needed to beat the Flyers Friday to clinch a playoff spot, Miller came off the bench and held them scoreless during the third period and overtime.

This season, Miller got off to a poor start before he found his game in January. He goes into the Flyers series 21-10-5 with a .919 save percentage since Jan. 1.

But Miller's physical status is somewhat in question. He suffered an upper-body injury March 29 against Toronto, and has played in only two games since. His backup, rookie Jhonas Enroth, played well as the Sabres picked up 11 of a possible 12 points down the stretch.

But it's playoff time, and, as they say in Buffalo, that means it's Miller time.


Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.

 

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