It seems appropriate on the night the Sabres make their first trip into Boston since the infamous Miller-Lucic incident that I focus on the Sabres number one goaltender because he’s been the single biggest factor in Buffalo’s sprint back into the playoff chase.
I think most of us believe Miller’s season and that of the team’s began to go south after that collision with Lucic which resulted in Miller suffering a concussion. Miller was coming off a very strong October but truth be told his game was starting to slip before Lucic bowled him over back on November 12th. In his four games prior to the contest in Boston, Miller allowed 15 goals and was pulled after just six minutes against Philadephia when he gave up three goals on 11 shots.
The concussion, which was Miller’s second in 2011, forced him to miss the next 9 games. When Miller returned on December 2nd at Nashville he looked sharp, making 34 saves in a victory. Four days later, Miller gave up five goals in an overtime loss to the Flyers and the struggles began.
Over a 17 game stretch, Miller allowed three or more goals 13 times. His goals against average soared and his save percentage plummeted. Those numbers hit a low point after a loss in St Louis on January 21st when the former Vezina Trophy winner had a 3.15 goals against and .897 save percentage.
Then it starts to change. It begins with a strong performance at New Jersey in the final game before the All Star break, and continues with the first game out of the break in Montreal. For the most part, Miller has been a different goalie and looked more like his old self.
The NHL’s first star of the week for last week’s performances in Anaheim, San Jose and Vancouver, Miller has eye popping numbers going back to the game in Jersey. He is 11-3-3 with a 1.78 goals against and a .942 save percentage.
Were his struggles all a result of the concussion? Who knows for sure but Lindy Ruff said it usually takes a good month for players to find their game after they return from a concussion. It took Miller about a month and half but remember he had another concussion just eight months earlier. Miller said when players are cleared to return from a concussion, fans think it’s back to normal but it’s not that simple, especially for a goalie. Miller appears to be back to normal and that has been the biggest reason why the Sabres might be able to salvage the season.