Has Ryan Miller finally come of age as a bonafide post-season goaltender? It's sure starting to look that way after these last two games against the Rangers. I'm certainly not one to count ANYONE'S chickens before they've hatched but, even though the last two Sabre victories were, no doubt, "team wins", Miller is the main reason that the 'bres have come out on top of their last trio of contests. It seems to have all started with the contortionist-like save on the Isles' Miro Satan in the waning seconds of game five of the first round. Even though he hadn't played poorly, the jury was still out on Miller in regards to his focus and reliability for an entire 60+ minute game. Even I, a die-hard Miller fan from his days at Mich State, had been prone to my psyche being invaded, albeit reluctantly, by some lingering concerns about his ability to keep his head in the game for the full monty. I've ALWAYS said that Miller is, first and foremost, a winner; 70+ wins in three collegiate seasons AND a Hobey Baker Award (the NCAA's equivalent of the Hart Trophy), which, since it's inception in 1981, has been awarded to a goaltender only twice, back that up. And, since turning pro, except for a brief but rocky stint in "the show" prior to last season, he's had nothing but success. The accolades are too many to mention here so, look them up for yourself. Whether his squad wins 5-4 or 2-1, Miller Time does whatever it takes to WIN. And that's the bottom line, isn't it; winning? Sure he has decent stats, but his numbers are nowhere near those of, say, the Dominator or Marty B. But, honestly, I don't think any of that matters to him more than having the "W" next to his teams name when the final horn sounds.
Last night, Miller took a team that was struggling offensively, put them on his back, and carried them to the finish line. In the last five minutes, he stoned the New Yawkuhhs enough to break their morale for the rest of the series. I'm not saying that's the case but if it was, who could blame them? Oddly enough, it was Ranger crease-keeper, Henrik Lundqvist, who was supposed to be the hot hand coming into the series but, as it stands right now, Hank has given up 7 goals on 50 shots over the two games against Buffalo. That means that, in only two games this series, he has already given up one more goal than he did in four games against Atlanta in round one and, as a team, New York has relinquished two more goals (empty netter in game one) in half the games. At the other end of the ice, however, Miller has given the Rangers fits (a stingy 4 goals on 67 shots) and has added to NY's list of worries. Now, it's not just the question as to how they're going to try and stop the Sabres from scoring (which they pretty much did admirably last night) but how they're going to do that AND get some offensive production. I can't help but see Tom Renney in a dark room somewhere in the bowels of the HSBC Arena, banging his head off of the thickest brick wall he can find (and, why not? his team's been doing it on the ice for two games, now).
I rezalize that the series is far from over and, as Miller said after the 'bres loss to the Isles last round, the Cup is not won in April...or even May for that matter. But if his play up to this point is any indication, the Sabres and their fans should buckle in for the long haul this spring. As I posted a few days ago after game 1>>>>>I suspect that the Rangers took this game as a slap in the face and will take the ice friday night for game two with a vengance. But, will THAT even be good enough? Apparently not.