Think Ryan Miller
is a good shootout goaltender? Well, he's even better when it comes to penalty shots.
When the spotlight has shone the brightest, Miller has been at his best. The East Lansing, MI native has turned away the oppositions last five attempts, setting a new franchise record for consecutive penalty shot stops.
Midway through the second period of Buffalo's 3-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, Miller added Rich Nash to his list of one-on-one victims. A brief that includes Philadelphia's Mike Richards, Ottawa's Jason Spezza and Minnesota's Marian Gaborik.
Hauled down by Henrik Tallinder on a questionable breakaway to earn the opportunity, Nash deked and fired a wristshot from 18 feet that Miller nonchalantly kicked away to the boards.
"With Nash, he has a really long reach and does a really good job with moves," said Miller, who has never been beaten in a penalty shot during his career. "I just wanted to get a jump on him and show him that I could stay with him.
"I kind of just read the situation. He was going to try to make me go back. He can't skate around me, unless he makes a real nice move, so I just had to stay on that."
"He's pretty confident, he's obviously quick and he's pretty big in the net," said Derek Roy
of Miller's strengths in stopping one-on-one situations. "When you come down on him, you really don't see much because he covers so much of the net. He's very patient also, which gives shooters a tough time."
Miller's steadfastness in those types of situations has led Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff to maybe a reevaluation of some strategies when a man down.
"It bothers me when we give up that situation, period," said Ruff of the breakaway. "But I think the odds are in our favor when we give a guy one shot instead of letting [a power play] throw it around and fire pucks five-on-three, which is sometimes not a very kind situation for your goaltender."
Miller is halfway to the NHL's record for consecutive stops (9) held by Vancouver's Roberto Luongo. Travis Green, then a member of the Boston Bruins, was Miller's very first penalty-combatant in the 2005-06 season. Nash's penalty shot was the 43rd against the Sabres in franchise history.
After the Sabres first win of the regular season on Oct. 11, Ruff tackled one of hockey's biggest cliches.
"It's always nice to play at home," commented Ruff concerning Buffalo's four-game home stand, "the kicker is that you have to win. If you're at home and you're not winning, you usually say it's nice to go on the road and bring the team together."
Buffalo bounced back from back-to-back loses to open the season by claiming six out of eight points in the team's next four: a 6-0 shutout against Atlanta on Oct. 11; a 7-3 victory over Washington two days later; and a 5-4 overtime win on Monday against arch-rival Toronto.
The team will now build a little chemistry with five-consecutive road games, including a four-day roadtrip down to the Southeast Division, to finish October. Buffalo will start things off in Montreal on Saturday night and won't return to the comfortable confines of HSBC Arena until Nov. 2 when they face the Florida Panthers.
Former Buffalo prospect Jan Hejda found out exactly what kind of cannon Ales Kotalik possesses in the first period of Friday night's match-up. Clogging the shooting lane, Hejda innocently extended to block the right winger's one-timer from the left point. Puck and stick met, and Hejda's twig was snapped in half.
Congratulations to Rob Murphy, who won the Sabres Emcee contest. Murphy defeated Earl Leatherland in the finals to become the new in-game host for the Buffalo Sabres. Voting was conducted on Sabres.com starting last Tuesday.