The Buffalo Sabres picked a good time to snap their six-game losing skid. The Sabres, behind a strong effort from goalie Ryan Miller, defeated the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks—of all teams—3-1 Saturday night in Buffalo.
Miller out-dueled fellow Olympian and Vezina Trophy-contender Evgeni Nabakov, stopping 27 of the 28 shots he faced.
“Rest is a good thing in this league,” Miller said following the victory.
Unfortunately for Miller, rest is something he will not see much of over the course of the next two weeks.
Up until Saturday night’s win, Miller had been going through a bit of a rough stretch in February. In his five games this month, the starting goaltender for team U.S.A. was 0-3-2 and had allowed four or more goals in three of those games.
Miller is going to have his hands full in the Olympics and will be more than likely playing at least four games—assuming things go according to schedule.
The goaltender’s focus has been called into question as of late. Miller has let in some unusually soft goals over the course of the last six games, including one Saturday night.
San Jose’s Kent Huskins ruined the shutout bid five minutes into the third period when he ripped a wrist shot that trickled under Miller’s arm. Although Miller made some fantastic saves against the high-scoring Sharks’ offense and played his best game in a couple of weeks, the goal was another soft one that he normally stops.
While Miller is not completely to blame for Buffalo’s recent stretch, he knows he has to be better.
“For a while, it didn’t seem like a lot was going quite my way after pretty much nothing went wrong in the first 40 games,” Miller said. “The teams I’ve been with that have performed at the highest levels have always had something to overcome. I’d rather have it now than later.”
While Miller had declined to comment on the Olympics in the past couple of weeks, he opened up after Saturday’s game.
“I’m looking forward to the tournament and [will] try to have as much fun as possible,” Miller said. “It’s going to be a great experience.”
The Sabres and their fans will keep their fingers crossed that their starting goalie returns to them unscathed and somewhat rested for what will be a very tough March and April.