Monday, December 30, 2013

Ryan Miller solidifies his status as a bonafide, kick-ass goalie...

Just ask the Washington Capitals about Ryan Miller.

Fifty shots against him in regulation and overtime, just one goal against for a .980 save percentage. It was a performance that was only outdone by a 1.000 save percentage on six shooters in the shootout for the 2-1 win.

Rumor is that Miller will be one of three goalies headed to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The future rumor should be that he's being considered for MVP as well as the Vezina. He's been playing that well.

Sabres fans must be getting the heebie-jeebies watching this team go 5-4-2 for the month of December while generating points in six of their last seven games.

Interim coach Ted Nolan has this team of no-names playing exceptional team hockey that's producing points. But it's Miller that once again is carrying the team.

For December Miller has a 5-2-1 record, with the team getting points in his last five games (4-0-1.) In those eight December games he has faced 291 shots-against allowing 15 goals against for a .948 save percentage.

The stretch of games in December has the Sabres now only four points out of the 29th spot (EDM) with two games in hand and only five points out of 28th (NYI) with one game in hand.

There was a time before the firing of GM Darcy Regier and coach Ron Rolston that the Sabres were a lock for the worst record in the NHL and the best shot at the #1 overall pick in the 2014 Draft. Now we're not so sure.

And the longer Miller is on the team, the stronger the possibility that the team will climb out of the basement. There's even a possibility, albeit an extremely remote possibility, that they'll make their annual run to a spot just outside the playoffs.

That, of course, is with Miller in net.

Six weeks from now--February 9--is the Olympic break and Miller will be in Sochi, Russia, probably as the starter for Team USA. LA Kings goalie Jonathan Quick was the front-runner until he was injured and even if he gets some time in net before the break, Miller might still be the man. After all, in addition to his stellar play this NHL season, he was the MVP in Vancouver back in 2010 when the USA--another team lacking superstars--were one goal short of taking home the gold medal.

The Buffalo Sabres will be facing quite the decision after the Olympic break. A little over a week after play resumes in the NHL, the March 5th trade deadline will be upon them, and what to do with Miller is front and center on their list of UFA decisions.

They will either extend the 33-yr. old or trade him as its highly unlikely they'll let him walk this summer for nothing.

The great debate will be (and we already have our decision made) as to what they should do, but if Miller continues playing like he has been, there will be suitors for his services. And those suitors (maybe a Washington or a St. Louis or a Cup contender that has an injury to their top goalie) will be paying a premium for a premier goalie.

Regardless of how the Miller situation shakes out, or even those of pending UFA's Matt Moulson and Steve Ott, the Buffalo Sabres are playing inspired hockey right now under Nolan and it's safe to say that the franchise is on the upswing.

In large part, though, to the play of Ryan Miller.

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