Did Ryan Miller really make 40 saves last night? Really? And on 40 shots? Not like, 43 or 45?
If you saw the first period you would have thought for sure Miller was letting in at least a couple. His positioning looked a bit off, and he seemed to have a tendency to completely overpursue the shooter a few times. He made 13 saves in the first, but it looked like eventually he would slip up a bit and at least give up the usual cheapie. The Sabres were lucky to get out of the period with the lead based on the play in front of him, too.
The thing about Miller is that he just doesn’t seem to “steal” games like some elite goalies do. This is difficult to adjust to when you’ve seen Dominik Hasek in net for your hockey team. Hasek was the kind of goalie who could absolutely rob the opposition of two points on any given night, and it’s hard to remember how special he was when comparing players. No matter how much we wish it, Ryan Miller will never play like Dominik Hasek. He just can’t, and our subliminal expectations of that are just as unfair as our subconscious hope that every Bills quarterback is the next Jim Kelly.
When I look back on last nights game I don’t think Miller “stole” it, but that’s mostly because the Sabres scored five times. However, stopping 40 shots against a team with talent such as Frolov, Kopitar, Brown, and O’Sullivan is no easy task, and although it didn’t look like it at times Miller did play quite well. He settled down, played the shooter well, and controlled his rebounds; something which certainly needed improvement from Wednesday night.
The thing about Ryan is that sometimes he just seems to lose focus and give up that ridiculously soft goal you never think he would let in. He’s been characterized as a little league outfielder chasing butterflies or staring up into the sky, and I think that’s a perfect way to put it. Sometimes he will put together an excellent 58 minutes of hockey, but that two minutes where he was thinking about fedoras he lets in two. We all know the defense hasn’t been there for him this year, but there are very high expectations there for Ryan Miller after his performance in the playoffs and the big contract. Lindy Ruff says it about any number of players, but he’s been right about this: Ryan Miller needs to be better.
Last night Miller was much, much better. James Patrick is right, closing out games with a four goal lead should be pretty easy, but that’s what Miller had to do. It is important that he didn’t give up that goal, though. We need to know that Ryan can come up with games like this down the stretch. We know what we have with the defense and hopefully it can improve, but Ryan Miller needs to be there when this team decides to chase butterflies itself.
That said, it would appear the Sabres also need to play more teams that have zero goaltending. The Roy goal is on the defenseman (next time gently slide it into his pads, don’t try to clear the zone from the goal line…), but LaBarbera needs to stop the puck clean on Butler’s initial shot (Mair’s goal) and not be out to lunch on the MacArthur goal. Give credit to the Sabres for actually crashing the net for once, but the Kings’ lack of goaltending gave this game away before their forwards had the chance to take it.
Other than Miller’s play there wasn’t a whole lot to like from the Sabres, really. All five goals were the result of forwards going to the net, which is good to see, but the defense was shaky again and Dustin Brown made them look bad every other shift. Butler played very well for a guy who admitted he was terrified, and Ellis played his part well, too. The only thing you can ask from your callups is that they minimize mistakes and skate hard, and both did that last night.
The Sabres need to win games like these, plain and simple. We’ve already seen a few Friday night home games against mediocre teams slip away. They did their job last night and took the help LaBarbera offered. That’s all you can ask.
A few other things before we start talking about the Habs:
– Give credit to the crowd for coming out even though most people had a foot of snow in their driveways. Even when there are travel bans in the area Buffalo puts more people in the seats than all of the South on a good night. Heck, take a look at this:
Okay, so it’s Jersey. Imagine twelve more people in the crowd and you have a usual home game. The point is those twelve people show up in Buffalo, while in other places they decide they’d rather sit at home and cry about all the shopping they didn’t get to do.
– I like this photo because it looks like Derek Roy is giving John Zeiler a seizure.
Roy did have a good game, and was the best forward on the ice for the Sabres. It’s good to see him start to heat up, although I have no idea who his linemates are anymore. The past two games I think Lindy is just throwing people on the ice just to see what happens. I mean it sort of worked last night, but I don’t think that’s really the best policy.
– I think the Gauthier sucker punch is really interesting, and I’ve watched it at least 20 times today. I’m going to turn that into the gameday post for Montreal, so check back later for that.