Heading into the Olympic break, the Buffalo Sabres were fading quickly in the Eastern Conference. It’s funny what a break in the schedule can do for a team.
Goaltender Ryan Miller, who was already having a banner season, was starting to struggle, maybe from being heavily overworked. With one game to go before the Olympics, Miller was trying to avoid a six game losing streak, as the San Jose Sharks stepped into the HSBC Arena. Undaunted, he showed that he is the heart and soul, as well as this team’s most valuable player, with a 28-save performance that galvanized Buffalo as they went on to win 3-1.
We all know the story of Ryan Miller during the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Simply put, he was the brightest out of many shining stars during the entire portion of the men’s ice hockey tournament. Team USA wasn’t expected to do much heading into the Olympics, by even the most optimistic of supporters. But what unfolded was quite simply incredible and a lot of that silver medal performance had plenty to do with Miller.
There were several questions though, in regards to Miller, even his goalie mask was in question, albeit that was completely ridiculous to most outside of the International Olympic Committee. The more important questions at hand for the Michigan State product was whether Miller would sustain throughout a quick but intense two-week competition.
Up until that point he had played 51 games for Buffalo and had faced plenty a ton of shots throughout. Buffalo’s low goals against total has little to do with their defense
Need I say more?
But Miller dominated at a higher level against the world’s best players and has let his play in Vancouver carry over back into NHL action. In the four games the newfound media darling Miller has played in, he has won three, with the one loss at the hands of the powerful Washington Capitals. Since that loss, the Sabres have defeated the Flyers, Rangers and Stars, to regain the top spot in the tight Northeast division.
Before I go and give Miller all of the credit, which is something I have done throughout my coverage for the Sabres, I would be completely remiss in doing so. Tyler Myers is proving, time and time again, that he not only is going to be a great defenseman for many years to come, he has already become a vital cog in the Sabres machine.
In last night’s 5-3 victory over the struggling Stars, Myers set, albeit very early in this phenom’s career, a personal career high for points in a game, with a goal and three assists. His goal within the first minute got things started for Buffalo, although that first period was very touch and go, as both teams scored often.
But Myers’ effectiveness wasn’t just felt with his offense, he provided stability on the blueline last night, making several solid defensive plays. But that is a surprise to little that have followed this team all season. He is getting better as the games go by.
As I have said in earlier columns, the more mature he gets, the scarier it will be for many opponents around the league. Suffice it to say, Myers is going to gain a ton of Calder Trophy votes for the league’s top rookie, when it is all said and done. This recognition will be the first of many accolades this kid will receive throughout his career, you heard it here first.
A welcomed new addition to the Sabres roster is former Blue Jackets winger — and unrestricted free agent to be — Raffi Torres.
Although Torres has yes to score a goal in the blue and gold uniform he is currently sporting, he was highly sought after during the trade deadline bonanza. The Sabres were more than willing to part with a second round pick in this year’s draft to obtain the pugnacious winger’s unique blend of toughness and skill.
While Torres will most likely test the free agent market this impending offseason, the Sabres organization will cross that bridge when they get to it. For now, his play will be vital to securing a division championship and a successful playoff run.
The Sabres are almost there, as far both as winning the Northeast. They currently are two points ahead of the aforementioned struggling Sens, who have not played well since NHL action resumed last week. Besides being ahead points-wise, they also have another huge advantage over their archrivals, having played two less games than Canada’s capital team.
I shouldn’t get too ahead of myself, nothing has been won yet. But the Sabres will take their current scenario over the one that was plaguing them just a few weeks ago. And from what has been going on lately, it seems Buffalo has been stampeding in the right direction.
It might indeed be ‘Millertime’ in Buffalo afterall. Sorry IOC!