The Buffalo Sabres need him to continue his brick wall play this week, as their stalled offense needs as much assistance as possible in winning hockey games.
Ryan Miller has not, other than in this current stretch of just over seven periods, looked like the Vezina winning goaltender from last year. Through 18 games, he is just barely over .500; but his goals against and save percentage are getting stronger – despite his rocky start he is sitting in the top ten of the league, eighth to be exact, in both categories (.922 and 2.26).
The Buffal0 Sabres offense has, well as of late stalled out to almost non-existence, with the exception of the Columbus game where really no one wearing blue and gold could do anything wrong.
Thomas Vanek is the only Buffalo Sabre to reach double digits in the goal column lately, now leading the team with ten goals. Vanek takes the lead from Derek Roy, who was the hottest player on ice in Buffalo at the start of the season, but has slowly settled into his normal role of the underachieving point leader on the team. I had a conversation at the final preseason game this year with another fan – and I told him that if Derek Roy put his mind to it, and stopped taking shifts, periods, or games off, he could easily transform himself into a forty or fifty goal scorer.
Roy is second on the team in scoring (first in points) with nine goals. Despite starting the season hot, he has not scored a goal since November 17th against the Washington Capitals.
The fact that the top two “offensive players” on the team combined cannot equal the output of Stamkos (21) or Crosby (23). There is no way that you could even put Vanek or Roy on the same level of Stamkos or Crosby – but they should be at least to the Sabres what Stamkos and Crosby are to their respective teams.
Vanek and Roy are not the only problems with the Buffalo Sabres ability to score. If you look down the list at the next highest goal scorer, you will find a defensemen, Jordan Leopold, with seven goals.
The schedule is not going to get any easier. Tomorrow night the Buffalo Sabres are in Beantown to take on the Boston Bruins. Boston’s offense is not much different that Buffalo’s, (12, 9, 7 compared to 10,9,7). The difference between the two teams has been the resurgence of Tim Thomas, who won the Vezina the year before Ryan Miller. Through the same number of games as Ryan Miller, Thomas has four more wins, and leads the league in save percentage and goals against (.956 and 1.46) as well as five shutouts.
If Ryan Miller is up to the task again, we could be in for another low scoring, overtime bearing game on Tuesday, where a 1-0 score might probably be a safe bet in Las Vegas; picking the right team is going to be the hard part.