Buffalo Sabres v Philadelphia Flyers - Game Five

Examining Ryan Miller’s track record in playoff elimination games

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For many casual American sports fans, Ryan Miller became a borderline household name when he nearly carried the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Even though he “settled” for a better-than-expected silver medal, Miller captivated budding hockey fans and went on to have a great NHL season in 2010-11, earning his first career Vezina Trophy in the process.

So there’s no doubt that Miller is considered elite on just about every level, but he still can add to his legacy by putting together another deep playoff run. Last season’s first round loss to the Boston Bruins was a bit of a disappointment, so I figured it might be interesting to take a glance at how the 30-year-old player has done in playoff elimination games.

(Keep in mind that there might be an empty-net goal here or there, but for the most part, final scores are fairly indicative of his/the team’s performances.)

2005-06 run: Fourth-seed Buffalo Sabres

First round: Miller allows one goal against the fifth seeded Philadelphia Flyers, giving Buffalo a 4-2 series win. (1-0)

Second round: Miller helps Buffalo take a 3-0 series lead over the first seed Ottawa Senators. After a 2-1 loss, Miller helps the Sabres win the series with a 3-2 overtime win. (2-1)

Third round: The Sabres ended up losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes (second seed) in a great seven-game series. Buffalo won Game 6 but fell to the Canes in Game 7. (3-2)*

Miller finishes the 05-06 playoff run with a 3-2 record in elimination games.

2006-07 run: First-seed Sabres

First round: Miller only needs one game to close out the eighth-seeded Islanders as Buffalo wins Game 5 4-3. (4-2)

Second round: Once again, Miller and the Sabres close out their opponent in the first opportunity, thanks to a 5-4 win against the sixth-seed Rangers in Game 6. (5-2)

Third round: The fourth-seeded Senators ripped through the East that year, beating Buffalo in five tidy games. They knocked Miller and the Sabres out in their second chance thanks to a 3-2 OT win. (6-3)

Miller finishes 06-07 run with a nice 6-3 record in elimination games.

The Sabres didn’t make the playoffs in the 07-08 or 08-09 seasons.

2009-10 run: Third-seed Sabres

First round: Down 3-1, the Sabres managed to fight off elimination once. The Bruins knocked them off 4-3 in Game 6, though. (7-4)

So, overall, Miller in 7-4 in elimination games.*

Update: That 7-4 record comes with little-to-no low moments. Even in games the Sabres lost, Miller never allowed more than four goals. No doubt about it, he’s a trustworthy goalkeeper in big games.

He frequently puts together great performances and hasn’t had a profoundly awful one (at least on paper?). The takeaway from that is pretty simple: the Flyers need to outplay the Sabres because Miller is unlikely to make it easy for them with a bunch of soft goals.

Now, that doesn’t mean that the next two games are guaranteed to follow that trend. As we’ve seen with these sometimes bizarre playoffs, a lot of strange things can happen.

That being said, don’t blame Buffalo if they feel very comfortable in an area of serious uncertainty for their first round opponents. Chances are, if someone lets the Sabres down, it probably won’t be their franchise goalie.

* – Thanks to commenter Chris Ostrander for clarification about a couple late series results for the Sabres.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.