The Buffalo Sabres have suffered plenty of disappointments during the 2011-12 season. Injuries have been unkind. Plenty of relied-upon guys have fallen on their faces. Ville Leino’s been bad enough that you really just need to utter the name “Ville Leino.”
Still, some might argue that Ryan Miller’s relative struggles* towered over all the other issues because they depend upon him so heavily.
Miller gets his groove back
Perhaps it makes sense, then, that Buffalo is making a moderately plausible push for a playoff berth on the strength of Miller’s rejuvenation. The American-born goalie is 9-2-3 since seemingly hitting rock bottom around Jan. 24. (He went 2-7-0 in the previous nine games.)
Leap Day’s results might do the most to cause some Sabres fans to make the huge leap of imagining an unlikely playoff berth, though. Despite having just a 4.1 percent shot at the playoffs, Miller’s 43-save shutout of the Anaheim Ducks in a 2-0 win could very well give birth to some wild dreams:
That prompts the obvious question: can Miller and the Sabres pull it off?
According to Sports Club Stats, the Sabres would need a 12-5-2 finish for a slightly-better-than coin flip’s chance (52.1 percent) while anything in the 12-4-3 range (70.9) or better could give them very good odds.
That doesn’t sound totally outrageous, but Buffalo’s schedule won’t make things easy. Five of its next six and seven of its next nine games are on the road, with the next two games coming against San Jose and Vancouver.
With that in mind, Sabres fans can keep it simple: if the team’s situation actually looks better when the smoke clears in mid-March, then leap away.
* – It’s almost as if the world-class goalie was in some bad ’80s movie where Milan Lucic’s collision gave him amnesia, thus making him forget that he’s an elite player. Admit it; that would result in the greatest injury report ever.