The most recent edition of The Hockey News included their annual list of the 100 people of power and influence in the National Hockey League. As far as the Sabres are concerned, there are 2 names on the list, one to be expected and the other lucky to be there.
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know Sabres owner Terry Pegula is on the list, coming in at number 73. The other Sabre is goalie Ryan Miller who was placed all the way up at 37. His spot on the competition committee, his outspoken nature and push for more protection of goalies are among the reasons he made the list. The blurb on Miller goes on to say that Buffalo’s mission to finally win the Stanley Cup runs through the Michigan native, referred to as one of the league’s elite netminders.
Not so fast as Lee Corso might say. Miller is nothing more than an average goaltender this season which is part of the Sabres problem. I used to consider him a core player for the franchise but I’d be hard pressed to make the argument anymore. Is it possible his magical 2009-2010 season which included a Vezina Trophy and Silver medal for Team USA was the high point of his career?
Outside of the first couple weeks of the season, Miller has looked uncomfortable on too many nights. Whether its giving up big rebounds, bad stickhandling decisions, being out of position, fighting the puck or giving up soft, un-Miller like goals, something is wrong with his game and the numbers bear it out.
Miller’s 3.05 goals against average is 35th in the NHL. I’m using stats for goalies who have played at least 15 games this season. To put it in perspective, his career worst GAA is 2.73. Miller’s save percentage of .900 is 34th and a little behind his career worst of .906.
At a time when the Sabres offense has been colder than the winter to this point, the number one goalie hasn’t been good enough to bail them out. Try and think of the last time you thought Miller stole the game or even a point. Perhaps the 41 save performance on December 13th during an overtime loss to Ottawa. Maybe a 32 save effort during a 3-2 win in Nashville in his first game back after the Lucic incident? If neither of those qualify then you have to go way back to October 18th in Montreal when the Sabres were nowhere to be found in the first period but Miller kept them in the game, giving his team a chance to rally and pull out a 3-1 win.
That Montreal game was in the best stretch of the season for Miller, right out of the gate. In the first five games of the season, Miller was 4-1 with a 1.61 goals against and .950 save percentage. Since then he is 6-9-2 with a bloated 3.64 goals against and sub par .884 save percentage.
On this week’s Lindy Ruff show, the head coach told WGR the lack of scoring has put a lot of strain on both Miller and Jhonas Enroth but he acknowledged they aren’t getting the big save at the crucial time. Ruff also said its time for Miller to “pick up the ball and run with it.” Unfortunately the netminder’s play the last 2 months gives no indication that is about to occur.