Tuesday night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs was the first game this season that Ryan Miller wasn’t sharp and it cost the Buffalo Sabres. The backbreaking overtime goal with just seconds left wasn’t pretty and Miller probably should have had it. He messed up and he owned up to that-
“I let the guys down on that one, I just made a stupid decision” ~ Ryan Miller
No question that Miller will face a lot of blame for the Sabres 4th straight loss and he didn’t play well at all- but the blame can’t always fall squarely on the goaltenders shoulders. Did anyone happen to catch Jordan Leopold‘s pathetic attempt of defending Matt Frattin with just seconds left? If Leopold had just bumped Frattin time would have expired and there wouldn’t have been a shot on net- period.
If there’s one thing that has been clear over the first 5 games- aside from Miller playing lights out, it’s the fact the Sabres defense has not improved at all from last season and that is cause for concern. Tyler Myers has yet to show up, Robyn Regehr has been useless and has anyone even noticed Alexander Sulzer? Our defense has been pitiful and no matter who’s in net when your defence isn’t clearing rebounds and allowing the opposition to get 3-4 whacks at the puck, you’re going to consistently lose.
Let’s forget Tuesday nights game for a minute- through 5 games it’s been Millertime in Buffalo- he’s allowed more than 2 goals just once and has given the Sabres a chance to win almost every game. In the first battle with the Leafs Miller made 34 of 35 saves, standing on his head and robbing Toronto of 2 points when they badly out played the Sabres.
While Miller has virtually done his job of shutting down the opposition, sitting with .925 Save Percentage (ranked 8th), the offense hasn’t been there to
help him out. Through 6 games the Sabres have scored 16 goals, which is just over 2 goals a game, but a lot of that offence has come from the first line of Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Cody Hodgson- who’s scoring goals when they’re not on the ice? The offense has scored more than 3 goals just once this season. With the long lay off for most NHL goaltenders, there are more goals being scored early on then there would normally be. When the average game has at least 3 goals scored, the Sabres need to step their game up and score more goals to help Miller out.
For the Sabres to make it back to the playoffs they need Miller to be stellar and return to his vezina form from 2010 and he’s been fantastic early on. Every goalie- no matter how good is going to have bad nights and let in some weak goals, it’s not fair for the Sabres to rely on Miller to bail them out all the time but no be able to bail him out when he’s off his game.
So for those blaming the loss on Miller- he’ll be just fine, he just needs some help from his offence and defence.