It was a huge night in Buffalo as superstar netminder Ryan Miller returned to the crease to help the Sabres earn an exciting 4-3 overtime win and a coveted playoff berth. Fans walking into the HSBC Arena may have hoped for the playoffs—but seeing Miller come onto the ice to start the 3rd period surprised just about everyone. There’s no word whether Jhonas Enroth was pulled because he suffered an injury in the 2nd period or if it was because he gave up two goals in 39 seconds during the middle frame. Whatever the reason, Miller returned to the ice, the Sabres are in the playoffs, the Flyers have lost five straight, and all is right in Buffalo.
Things didn’t start out so great for the Sabres. They fell behind the Flyers 3-2 going into the final frame—but the 3rd period provided some of the most exciting 22 minutes fans in Buffalo have seen all year. They scored the game-tying goal halfway through the 3rd period, and then watched Thomas Vanek split the Philadelphia defense for the game-winning breakaway goal. Anytime the night ends with the announcement, “Playoff tickets go on sale Monday,” it was a successful evening.
The return for Ryan Miller marked his first ice-time since a right collarbone injury forced him to miss four games. Even though Jhonas Enroth had an impressive stint in his place, there’s no doubt the Sabres are excited to have Miller back in his familiar place. This season, Miller has a .915 save percentage and 2.60 goals against en route to his 33-22-8 record. The worst part for the Sabres is that Miller was playing his best hockey of the year in the weeks preceding his injury.
Tonight was a reminder of exactly where Miller stands as the playoffs approach. He made 8 saves in the 3rd period and never faced a shot in overtime as he earned the 21 minute victory. However, he was beaten by the first shot he faced that went off the side of the net and showed a little bit of rust that would be expected after missing a handful of games. If nothing else, that should explain just how good Miller can be for the Sabres. He looked rusty and didn’t play to the best of his ability, yet still was able to shut the Flyers down and help his team to victory.
Assuming Enroth was pulled due to a bruised ego, Lindy Ruff and the Sabres will have a decision to make going into their final game of the regular season Saturday night in Columbus. Now that they have secured a playoff spot, they can give him 4-5 days rest before the beginning of the playoffs. Alternatively, they can give him 60 minutes of pressure-free NHL action to get his timing back before the games really start to matter.
Either way, it’s a good decision for team to have to make.