For some unknown reason, the NHL decided to schedule a 3:00 p.m. game between the Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals on a Sunday when most American sports fans were clearly focused on the NFL playoffs. But the Sabres and Capitals just got done playing an entertaining game on Dec. 29, so the anticipation for this rematch was pretty high. The Dec. 29 game saw Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller make 49 saves and lead his team to a shootout win. In other words, the Sabres do not win that game without Ryan Miller.
On Jan. 12, the Sabres and Capitals teed it up again and, once again, the game went into a shootout. Just as with the Dec. 29 game, this game does not go into a shootout if it is not for Ryan Miller and his heroics. To complete the series of weird coincidences that surrounded this game, the Sabres won in a shootout, just as they did on Dec. 29.
During the course of the third period of the Jan. 12 game, Miller made a stick save on Washington forward Mikhail Grabovski that can only be classified as one of the best of the year. To be honest, it was the kind of save that will be on highlight reels for a very long time to come. It was Miller making a miraculous save while wearing a Sabres’ uniform, and it is driving Sabres’ fans crazy.
When the 2012-13 season ended, the fans in Buffalo knew that the team was headed for a rebuilding phase. There was talk that Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek did not want to be part of another Sabres’ rebuild and both players wanted out of Buffalo. The fans had developed a “good riddance” attitude towards both players and waited to see what would happen. When Vanek was traded to the New York Islanders for Matt Moulson and some draft picks, fans were not surprised. But as the season has worn on, the feelings regarding Miller have changed.
Buffalo fans have incredibly short memories and they forgot the media firestorm that surrounded Miller when he played in the 2010 Winter Olympics. When Miller was the starting goalie for Team USA, he put in a courageous performance that made Buffalo fans proud. Just two years later, those same fans were screaming to have Miller traded and to put someone else in goal.
As Miller puts in solid performance after solid performance and has become the focal point of Team USA once again, Sabres fans have changed their tune. But it may be too late, as Miller may be putting on a show for potential trade suitors or free agent callers as opposed to making a case as to why he should remain the Sabres’ goalie of the future.
Miller will return from the Olympics as the Sabres’ goalie, but it is hard to say how long he will stay in a Sabres uniform after the Olympics are over. In the meantime, Miller continues to shut up his critics with incredible performances that could all be part of a losing season. If Miller is traded, then the fans will get what they said they wanted when the season started. But every NHL expert knows that the Sabres will not find another goalie like Miller anytime soon.
He continues to tease Sabres fans with glimpses of what the team could have if he were to stay in Buffalo. It will be interesting to see how the Ryan Miller saga plays out as the 2013-14 trade deadline of March 5 gets closer and closer.