All season long Buffalo’s Ryan Miller has looked a little bit off. After a Vezina Trophy winning season last year and an Olympic tournament that saw him lead the way for Team USA, it only made sense that he would have a bit of a down year this year.
Leave it to Miller to make his biggest impression of the season when it started to matter the most as he stopped 35 shots in Game 1 of the playoffs to lead the Sabres to victory 1-0 over Philadelphia. The shutout was Miller’s second in his career in the playoffs and while he didn’t get a lot of offensive support tonight, he got just enough from Patrick Kaleta of all people to get the win.
The loss for Philadelphia continues a bad trend that carried them through the final month of the season as the Flyers struggled to the end. The Flyers closed their year from February 26 til the end of the regular season going 7-8-6 and now they’re dealing with a red hot Sabres team that finished their season strong.
Some of you may have given us some grief for going against the Flyers as long as they’re playing without Chris Pronger, but tonight was a prime example of how things can change without their best defenseman as it was Danny Syvret who was caught not defending Kaleta on the game’s only goal.
It’s unfortunate for Philadelphia as James van Riemsdyk played an outstanding game for the Flyers. They’ll need more of that from him as the playoffs roll on. While the stars are always counted on to be big performers, getting production from the depth players goes a long way.
For Buffalo, stealing home ice advantage away from Philadelphia goes a long way for them as they’ll at least head back to Buffalo for Game 3 with a split in the series and at most with a 2-0 lead and the Flyers on the ropes. Either way, seeing Miller shut things down does wonders for the Sabres confidence on a night when their offense was able to muster just one goal.
If the Flyers want to get wins in the playoffs, fixing their power play would go a long way towards helping that out. The Sabres were 0-5 with the man advantage and looked bad on all of them. It’s been an issue for the Flyers all season as their power play ranks out as the sixth worst one amongst teams in the playoffs during the regular season scoring just 16.6% of the time. Against Buffalo tonight they looked like a mishmash of players attempting to do something but that something wasn’t putting the puck in the net.
While Buffalo would love to see the offense pick up, if Miller plays outstanding like he did all playoffs… Buffalo looks a lot scarier to face.