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Buffalo Gamebreaker: Ryan Miller

by John McGourty
Overshadowed by New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur for most of his career, this season Ryan Miller has emerged as the NHL's best goaltender. Not only that, he was the best player at the 2010 Winter Olympics, backstopping an underdog Team USA squad into overtime of the gold-medal game before being beaten by Canada's Sidney Crosby.

No team, at any time, is "likely" to beat the Sabres because Miller, 29, has the ability to steal games on any given night, at home or on the road. His positioning is excellent and no goalie has a faster glove. Miller has tight rebound control and coordinates well with his defensemen.

Team USA General Manager Brian Burke teased Miller about his skinny frame at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, but Miller's low percentage of body fat is a prime reason for his quickness and flexibility.

Off the ice, Miller is gracious and a great representative in the community, but in the dressing room and on the ice he's a boiling cauldron of intensity and commitment. His lifelong family hockey background has given him an understanding of all situations. As a result, he never quits and he's the first person teammates turn to for leadership.

Miller entered the NHL in 2002 looking like he was 15, belying his background as a member of Michigan's first family of hockey -- his uncles Kevin, Kip and Kelly played in the NHL and brother Drew is with Detroit. Miller's maturity helped him quickly become part of the team's leadership and now that role is undisputed.

The Sabres by virtue of their higher seed will be favored in the first round, but after that, who knows? If you had to pick a goalie to help you win a game when you were clearly the underdog, right now the choice would be Ryan Miller.

You can cite stats and quote experts to explain Miller's success but it's simpler than that: Miller is here to win and he will stop pucks. Nowadays, better than anyone.

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