Ryan Miller still defines the Buffalo Sabres

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If we learned one thing about the Buffalo Sabres last season it’s that they are Ryan Miller’s team and all their promising youngsters and expensive signings hasn’t changed that. The rest of the team isn’t inconsequential — far from it — but by far their most important player is still the man between the pipes.

That became evident last season when Ryan Miller was sidelined with a concussion early in the campaign. For all Jhonas Enroth’s promise, he wasn’t quite ready to carry the Buffalo Sabres in Miller’s absence. Worse, the rest of the team wasn’t able to bail Miller out when he initially struggled after returning in early December.

Miller’s GAA dropped to an ugly 3.12 after an 8-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 17.

As the Buffalo News reported, Sabres owner Terry Pegula made a sarcastic comment at the expense of his goaltenders following the contest and Miller admitted that he needed to work through “some bad habits.”

Perhaps missing roughly a month early on in the season messed with his rhythm, but regardless, it would be another month before he turned things around. The good news is that when he finally did bounce back, he was as dominant as ever.

Miller had a 19-6-5 record, 2.08 GAA, and .931 save percentage in 31 games after the All-Star break.

He still defines the Sabres, but given the unusual nature of his 2011-12 campaign, we’re not sure that last season defines him. If his final months are any indication, Miller is perfectly capable of bouncing back in 2012-13 with an all-star caliber showing — and that, more then anything else, would be the key to the Buffalo Sabres finally living up to the high expectations thrust upon them.