Without a doubt, the key to the Buffalo Sabres' success has been Ryan Miller.
His .935 save percentage—tops in the NHL. A GAA of just over 2—bested by only Antti Niemi's 1.82 and Tuuka Rask's 1.92. His five shutouts tie him with Ilya Bryzgalov and future Hall of Famer Marty Brodeur for the league lead. Only Brodeur (27) has more wins this year than Miller's 25.
By all accounts, Miller should be a heavy favorite to win the Vezina—and maybe even the Hart—if he continues his exploits. He stopped 48 out of 50 shots as the Sabres held off the Leafs to win 3-2 on January 8. Rarely do you see him have an off night, and when he does, you wouldn't know it by the way he plays in his next start.
He hasn't been the only driving force behind the Sabres, who have returned to the top of the standings after back-to-back seasons missing the postseason.
That's where Tyler Myers enters the picture.
There have been many times I've listened to the Sabres games and have heard it mentioned that media members of opposing teams have complemented the 19-year-old's play.
It's hard to believe that Myers is a rookie, even harder to believe that he is as young as he is. But it has been a while since the Sabres have had a game-changing rookie such as Myers. He is a plus-9, which is tied for second on the team. His 26 points is two behind number-one draft pick John Tavares.
Myers had his best night as a Sabre in the previously mentioned January 8 game, when he scored two goals and tacked on an assist for his first three-point night. Fans are beginning to call for Sabres G Darcy Regier to lock Myers up for 10-15 years and ensure that the teenager is a Sabre for years to come.
Many have anointed Tavares as the Calder frontrunner. But it would be foolish to not include Myers in the discussion. Only two Sabres have won the award—Hall of Famer Gilbert Perralut and Tom Barrasso. Nine defensemen in history have won it—the 1966-67 winner, a 19-year-old by the name of Bobby Orr, went on to have a pretty good career in the league.
The Sabres are still flawed. Their power play has been less than stellar, but it is starting to come around. Their big money players, namely Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy, havem't played to expectations.
But Sabres fans are hoping for the one time this season when it all comes together. Then, there's no telling how far this team will go—maybe winning the one trophy that has evaded them all these years—the Stanley Cup.