Ryan Miller: As Always, The Key To Sabres Success

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Yes, I know it’s only November. I know the Sabres have only played 15 games. And yet, I can’t help but be excited about this year’s team. Maybe it’s the fact that the Bills are so bad this year that I’ve moved on to hockey early. But it’s equally likely that the Sabres this year could actually be (dramatic pause) good .

Hear me out. I have a case, I promise.

Let’s start with the offense. Through 15 games, the Sabres are scoring nearly three goals per game. They’re allowing just over two per game.

Every forward except for Adam Mair (who hasn’t played a game) has scored at least one goal. Tim Connolly is leading in points scored at 15. Tim Connolly! If you had asked me a year ago who would be leading in points, he would not be on my list.

The Sabres have also earned points in over two-thirds of their games to this point, which is the best out of any NHL team through 15 games.

Now at this point you are saying “Hey, those stats are okay, but they’re not great.” And you’d be right.

The offense isn’t really the reason I think this team is good. It’s the reason that this team isn’t bad .

The reason the Sabres are good this year comes down to one player: Goaltender Ryan Miller.

Through 15 games this year, Miller is 10-2-1 with a .923 save percentage and 23 goals against. That is, every single game that the Sabres have won has been with No. 30 in net.

There have been games when he has carried them on his back, making highlight reel saves in close games against good teams like New Jersey. He’s done the same against teams that the Sabres have had trouble against in the past, like Tampa Bay.

Miller has been the key to all of the Sabres wins this year.

With Patrick Lalime injured and Jhonas Enroth having absolutely no experience, I don’t think coach Lindy Ruff can trust anyone else besides Miller at goaltender this season. Unless they sign someone (Marty Biron?) as a reliable backup, that will continue to be the case through 2010.

I think the Sabres have made a strong enough start that if the offense continues to function and Miller plays at a high level, they can run deep into June.

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