VANCOUVER - As they prepare to host the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night, Ryan Miller and the Vancouver Canucks are riding a three-game win streak to open their season. It's an impressive feat, but there's still a long way to go to match where Miller was a decade ago, when he and the Sabres were in the midst of an NHL record-tying 10-game win streak to begin the 2006-07 season.
Miller and the Sabres opened that campaign on the road in Carolina and earned a 3-2 shootout win over the Hurricanes. It was a bit of revenge considering the Hurricanes had beaten them in seven games in the Eastern Conference Final that spring.
"I think there was a little bit of carry over," Miller said Thursday. "We felt like we could beat teams. We started in Carolina, so going back and getting that shootout win, it kind of just rolled from there."
Not only could that Sabres team win games, they did so in a variety of ways. There were lopsided games during the streak, like the 9-1 win over the Flyers on Oct. 17 or the 3-0 shutout of the Islanders on Oct. 26, but there were also three shootout wins. In their second game, a 5-4 shootout win at home over Montreal, Daniel Briere scored with less than five minutes remaining and Maxim Afinogenov tied the game 15 seconds left on the clock.
Even after their streak ended in a shootout loss to the Atlanta, the Sabres won their next game in a shootout over Boston. This time, they erased a 4-1 deficit in the third period. Afinogenov scored twice in the final 10 minutes and Ales Kotalik tied the game with 1:35 remaining.
They lost their next game to Toronto, and then won three-straight in overtime.
"I just think we felt like we could put goals up," Miller said. "When we needed to, we could turn it on. That was the biggest thing. Those two seasons, as they combine from one season into the next, we felt really good about the group and that's what you can do when everything's in place."
The streak came during an interesting time in Buffalo, in the midst of the historic "October Surprise," a winter storm that hit Western New York on Oct. 12, 2006 and caused massive power outages throughout the region. Miller said the team was forced to stay in a hotel, some longer than others.
"It was some hardships for a lot of people in the city," Miller said. "It was definitely wild to go down the boulevards where all the big trees were and see them torn down from the ice."
It certainly didn't deter the fans' enthusiasm for their team. Miller said that the Sabres took it upon themselves to serve as a distraction for the community when there was little else to do. Needless to say, they did a pretty good job.
"You have a storm and everybody's kind of stuck, it's a good way to pass the time," Miller said. "We talked about that stuff in the room a little bit. You know what's going on in the community; there are certain times when you're going to be a positive distraction.
"It was a fun time to be playing hockey, and it was definitely the right city to have that team."