But as the game went along, Miller seemed to grow stronger, calmer, more confident. Whatever the injury, it certainly didn't affect his performance. And by the time the final horn sounded on the Sabres' 1-0 win, his play let the Flyers know that it's going to be a harrowing journey to get past the first round. That whiff of staleness quickly dissipated.
"We wanted to come out and establish that we can play with these guys and go from there," Miller said after stopping all 35 Flyers shots. "We still think they have a load of experience, and they've been down before, so we certainly are not going to be comfortable in this situation. We like where we're at, and we know that team has a lot of fight."
When the Flyers learned Miller and the Sabres would be their first playoff test, they could have referenced last year's first round for encouragement, when they easily put away future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur and the Devils. But that was a tired and dispirited New Jersey club that didn't have the energy to support its goalie.
The Sabres, on the other hand, had the best record in the NHL the final 24 games of the season. And they fed off Miller in Game 1. They blocked 16 shots, 12 more than the Flyers, and they confronted any Flyer who crowded him.
"I knew I was going to get help around me," Miller said. "We've been doing a great job the last few months of collapsing down and helping cover backside plays, so I could wait and make my reads."
Miller's night was far from easy. His teammates had some problems staying out of the penalty box. In the second period, minors against defensemen Steve Montador and Shaone Morrisonn left the Sabres shorthanded for 3 minutes, 20 seconds. For 38 seconds, the Flyers had a two-man advantage. By then, though, Miller must have appeared to be covering the whole net because the Flyers spent a little too much time looking for the perfect shot.
"It just comes down to how bad you want it on those penalty kills," he said.
Although he wasn't tested as frequently as Miller, Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky also had a shutout going until he left a rebound for Patrick Kaleta to ram past him with 14:04 remaining in the third period. Marc-Andre Gragnani took the initial shot, and no one picked up Kaleta as he sailed down the slot.
Kaleta, though, was more interested in talking about Miller than his goal. He said there was no concern about the goalie even though he saw little action the final two weeks of the season.
"We had no concern at all because he's an elite player in this league," Kaleta said. "He's focused every single night. Being around him in the hotel room, you could tell he was ready. We never question him."
Before his injury, Miller played in 31 consecutive games. So it appears the time off made him fresh, because he certainly wasn't stale.
Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or firstname.lastname@example.org