Ryan Miller isn’t having as high profile a season as last year. However, his shutout against the Montreal Canadiens last night kept his team’s playoff hopes alive as the race for the last few spots in the Eastern Conference standings heats up.
Miller made 31 saves to record his first shutout since January, giving Buffalo some breathing room in the race for the final playoff spot. The Sabres remain three points above the Carolina Hurricanes and are only six points behind the Habs with a game in hand.
The Canadiens found it hard to get going, and didn’t wake up until Nathan Gerbe’s goal to open the scoring. Carey Price made some outstanding saves in the second period, but his defense left him helpless on Gerbe’s tip — shot originally taken by Tyler Myers — midway through the second period.
Miller was given some help against the Canadiens thanks to his defense, but he was still called into action and stopped 31 shots in the Sabres’ 2-0 win.
“I was able to see some pucks, and we’re blocking them and stepping into lanes to force them outside a lot,” Miller said after last night’s game. “As for defensive efforts, that was one of our strongest.”
Last season, Miller won the Vezina Trophy after recording a save percentage of .929. The Sabres won the Northeast Division thanks to 69 points from Derek Roy, who has not played since December due to a torn quad tendon injury, putting a lot of responsibility onto Thomas Vanek. The 27-year-old had struggled to find the net, having only scored 25 goals. During the 2008 and 2009 seasons, the Austrian scored 36 and 40 goals. Offensively, Buffalo has struggled without Roy, but Miller’s experience is helping the team in their hopes of solidifing a playoff spot.
Miller hasn’t been making headlines this season, but statistically he is still one of the best goaltenders. Miller is forth in the league for shots faced and shots saved, while he is ranked third for goals against despite having played 61 games, winning 31.
After taking the Northeast Division by storm last season, the pressure will certainly be off the Sabres if they reach the playoffs. However, with the New York Rangers finding their groove again and with Carolina and Toronto both winning their last two games, there is a lot of hockey left to play. Miller’s Sabres will face the Florida Panthers and the New Jersey Devils before visiting both the Rangers and the Maple Leafs.