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Q&A: Miller on the Sabres' start, watching Roger Federer, and more

Defenseman talks with about his first three games with Buffalo

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Colin Miller joined the Sabres with the mindset to carry over the lessons he learned in two seasons with the upstart Vegas Golden Knights. 

Miller was a key player on the expansion Golden Knights team that made a memorable run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018 and earned a second straight playoff berth last season. He spoke during the summer about bringing that experience to a young Sabres dressing room. 

Through three games, he's also brought a valuable presence on the back end. His shot is loud and his skating is eye-catching, yet he's been lauded for his composure. The Sabres have outscored opponents, 4-0, when he and partner Rasmus Dahlin have been on the ice at 5-on-5. caught up with Miller after practice on Tuesday to talk about his start to the season, what he learns from watching Roger Federer, and more. 

When you were traded here, you looked at the roster and said you saw speed and skill. Now that you've had a month with the team, what else do you see?

Obviously, our power play has been off to a really good start, so that's something that can help you either stay in or win a lot of games throughout the regular season. It's such an important part, special teams. But yeah, I think if we play every night with that speed and skill and keep it simple, we're always going to have a very fair shot. It's been an encouraging start.


Your unit on the power play [with Marcus Johansson, Casey Mittelstadt, Conor Sheary, and Rasmus Ristolainen] includes a bunch of guys getting to know each other. How has that progression gone?

It's been good. Johansson there, he's so smart with the puck on the half wall. A lot of it runs through him, and then we've got a couple of good shots over on our side with Risto and myself. I think with the time that we get out there - obviously that other unit has done a great job - we just want to go out there and do what we can.


Video: BUF@CBJ: Johansson hammers one-timer for PPG


You said confidence was a major key in what your team did in Vegas. Are you seeing the potential for that here so far?

I think it takes time to get confidence and swagger and stuff like that, but I don't think by any means you ever want to go into any game feeling nervous or sitting back. That's never a recipe for success. I think our team has done a good job of that early. We have no reason to be sitting back or anything like that. We can take on any team here, so we've just got to play our game and see what happens.


I'm sure you knew a little bit about Rasmus Dahlin before you got here. Now that you're played on a pair with him for three games, what have you learned?

I mean, obviously he's a hell of a player. It's fun watching him out there. We've done a decent job so far of just taking care of our own end and then having some fun up ice. Obviously, he's such a skilled kid and he's going to make his plays throughout the game, which are great. For me, it's just about being there for support.


He's been described as an avid learner. Are there spots you can help him?

Yeah, a little bit, maybe. I think for me, to him, it's more just managing the game sometimes. Obviously when you're younger you want to go, go, go, go, go. I think some of us always want to do that, but it's just time and place throughout a game. You've got to know when to pick your spots and he's done a great job of that so far.


What's the hardest your shot has been clocked at?

(Laughs.) I don't know, I think it was 105 or something. I went to skills competition a couple years ago; it was something like that.

(Miller set a league record with a 105.5 mph shot at the 2015 AHL All-Star Skills Competition.) 


Do you think you could top that now?

I don't know, we'll see. I haven't done it in a while. I'd rather just hit the net more than have that big one go off. But we've got a lot of guys that can shoot the puck on this team.


When you're able to shoot that hard, is it a natural gift or something you honed over the years?

I think it's something I've worked on. I've always shot a lot of pucks throughout the summer and stuff like that so it's just something you try to work on and keep building.


I've read that Roger Federer is your favorite athlete outside of hockey. Why?

I think you just look at the way he plays. He's so smart and so calm out there and obviously a very true professional. He's kind of an interesting guy to watch. Whenever I watch him, you kind of see how in control he is of his game. The results come through. 


It's funny you say calm. That's how [Sabres coach Ralph Krueger] has described you. Is that a good description?

I hope so. You try to play like that. There are always moments throughout the game where you get a little sporadic, but if we can stick within our game we'll be good.


Why do you wear 33?

I used to be six. Scandy was six here, so I don't know. Three and three is six, I guess. Pretty simple. I was going to be a twenties number, but a lot of the twenties were taken. I'm not too picky. Thirty-three was something I thought I'd try out.


Is there a moment from the home opener that will stand out when you look back on it?

Yeah, that was a fun one. The second period there were a couple big hits. The crowd was into it, so that's always fun. Hopefully that was an exciting game for the fans and hopefully they'll bring that support back.


How has your perception of this market changed from your time here as a visitor?

Definitely a lot of energy in the building for our home opener. I don't know, I was only here a couple times between my last couple teams. But it was definitely one of the loudest times I've heard it for a home opener. 


You went to the Bills game (against New England on Sept. 29) as a team. What was your impression of that crowd?

Yeah, they were wild. Driving through the parking lot there, seeing the fans, they're definitely into it. I think the Bills definitely own that day of the week here in Buffalo. It's great to see. 

This is your fourth organization. It's early, but do you feel like it's a place you could be comfortable long-term?

Yeah, definitely. Everywhere you go, I've been - I guess you say fortunate or whatever - but I've been around a little bit. You find things that you love about every city. I think I'm finding things that I love about it here in Buffalo. It's just been fun getting to know the guys more and learning from Ralph. The communication lines have been great there, so it's been good. 

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