Time flies when you're having fun... and replacing water heaters, and alternators, and furnaces, and laptops. I turn my back for a minute and the Sabres go on a 10-3-3 tear. To be honest, I've been watching most of the games or, at the very least, parts of most of the games. I just haven't had time to sit and type up my thoughts lately, but Trevor and Erik have been holding down the fort admirably.
The Sabres, with rare exception, have always been a second half team. It would appear that this year is no exception. The thing is, they aren't scoring any more goals than they were before the break. The good news, though, is the goals are starting to come from sources other than Vanek and Pominville. For example, is it possible that Drew Stafford is trying to reignite my man-crush with him? I had all but given up on him ever scoring on a regular basis again, yet here he is racking up points all of a sudden. I said in a prior post (that I'm too lazy to go get the link for - I guess that "Sabre mentality" is rubbing off on me) that his play has been there all along and if anyone on this team was truly snakebit it was him. He's proving that persistence pays off as things finally start to go his way. Derek Roy is another guy who is finally starting to find the net. Pat Kaleta continues to impress me with solid play every night. The team has definitely rallied since the break and, as a whole, is showing passion and fire consistently. Heck, Tyler Myers actually dropped the gloves in Anaheim! Who needs more proof than that?!?
But as far as I'm concerned, the success of this team since January rests squarely on the shoulders of one Ryan Miller. As I said, the team isn't scoring any more goals than they were in the first half of the season. But they aren't giving up nearly as many either. Some of that can be attributed to better back checking and guys actually getting in lanes and blocking shots. Some of it can be attributed to a noticable decrease in the amount of bone-headed turnovers in the defensive zone. But most of it is a direct result of Ryan Miller finally shaking off the funk he's been in and playing like an absolute beast between the pipes. In the past three weeks, we've seen him play stellar hockey. And back-to-back shutouts in two nights? I think that's a first for him. And I'm not talking "Ryan Miller shutouts"... I'm talking legit goose eggs.
There are many Ryan Miller detractors, of which I've been one lately. But no one can argue with his recent play. Forty-three saves in Anaheim? Thirty-nine in San Jose the very next night? Are you kidding me? Don't get me wrong, I still have my concerns... he does disappear for long stretches, and he's a whiney little bitch when things don't go his way. Look at his commets earlier this week about his boyfriend, Paul Gaustad, being traded. But when he turns in all-star performances like he has been lately, it's hard not to want him on your team. But, Jesus, some consistency would be nice.
It boils down to this. When he plays well, the team wins. When he doesn't, they lose. It's as simple as that. I don't think Enroth gives you that. So if you don't like that model, you have two options. Find another goalie who can provide that level of play on a more consistent basis, or go to a lesser-skilled minder and stack the team in front of him and hope you can outgun the other guys on a nightly basis.
If it sounds like I'm changing tack and saying Ryan Miller is our savior, that's not the case at all. But he IS winning us games right now. If he can keep his head straight and do it regularly, then he should rightfully have a place as the starter on this team. I'm just afraid that he'll keep this up long enough to save his job and that's all.