Extra MustardSI On CampusFantasyPhoto GalleriesSwimsuitVideoFanNationSI KidsTNT
Drop the gloves during the playoffs with SI.com's writers in the NHL Cup Blog, a daily journal of hockey commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
12:26 AM ET, 5/27/06

Even more pressure on Miller

Posted by Yi-Wyn Yen
Fifty-three minutes before the puck dropped in Game 4, Ryan Miller walked alone from the locker room and sat down on the edge of the empty Sabres' bench. Leaning forward with his head tucked below his knees, Miller meditated for several minutes. The meticulous goaltender performs this Jedi Master routine before every game as part of his mental preparation.

Miller may need to spend more time these days mulling over the growing list of challenges he now faces.

Injured key defensemen and a listless special teams has become a concern for the Sabres, who were shut out for the first time in the postseason. The Hurricanes have evened the Eastern Conference finals 2-2 with a 4-0 win in Game 4, shifting momentum in their favor. Looking to gain an edge, Carolina coach Peter Laviolette started Martin Gerber for the first time since he was pulled in the first-round series against Montreal. Gerber responded by stopping all 22 shots, while Miller allowed two early goals in the opening 10 minutes. Said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, "It's our turn. You bounce back or you're out. It's the best of three now. Those guys in the room have got to scrape away and find a way to beat Carolina."

After looking invincible in the first two playoff rounds against Philadelphia and Ottawa and leading Carolina 2-1 in the series before their Game 4 loss, the Sabres have started to look vulnerable with the loss of top blueliners Henrik Tallinder (broken arm), Teppo Numminen (groin injury) and Dmitri Kalinin (broken ankle) and finicky forwards who play superb one night (Game 1 and 3) and mediocre the next (Game 2 and 4). "If we're going to win," Ruff said, "Our forwards have got to be better." Their inconsistency along with two minor-league defensemen, Doug Janek and Jeff Jillson, adjusting on the fly has put immense pressure on Miller to step up his performance from good to great.

Miller is certainly capable of that. He is the only remaining goaltender in the finals, along with the Oilers' Dwayne Roloson, to play every minute in the playoffs. And before his team let him down in Game 4, Miller had just one loss with a two-goal differential. He is also a smart student of the game, spending hours reviewing videos. "He's one of the only guys I know who purposely redirects rebounds off his shoulder [and] to the slot because he sees the opening there," says Sabres backup goalie Martin Biron. "If the team likes to drive down the middle, he'll kick the rebound way out on purpose just because he knows the second or third guy on the rush will be right around the net. You'll see it happen two or three times during a game. The rebounds go way past the two or three forwards, and we're out of the zone." With Miller's help, the Sabres may just got out of the danger zone.

Comments:

Posted: 8:41 AM   by Anonymous
Buffalo has some injuries, but thats part of the game. While it may be a story now, if the Hurricanes beat Buffalo, no one will remember or care about their injuries.

The Hurricanes would quickly welcome Tallinder, Numminen, and Kalinin back onto the ice if they could have Erik Cole. Cole had 30 goals and 29 assists in 60 games this season.

With home ice advantage, momentum and the experience of the Hurricanes, look for them to close this series out in Buffalo on Tues.

Canes in 6.
Posted: 8:05 PM   by Anonymous
"The Hurricanes would quickly welcome Tallinder, Numminen, and Kalinin back onto the ice if they could have Erik Cole."

Everybody knows that the loss of three of the Sabres' top 4 defensemen is a bigger deal than Cole. Just remember that Carolina wouldn't have made the deal for Recchi if Cole was healthy. The lack of Numminen, Tallinder, and Kalinin (and don't forget Tim Connolly) is a much bigger deal than Cole right now.

The Canes are insanely healthy.

I've heard that Carolina is a deep team but all I've seen this series is Staal and Stillman.
Posted: 8:55 PM   by Anonymous
hey, the sabres have faced adversity the whole season, watch for a huge turn around in game 5 whether it be the spark of Numminen or Pominville replacing Janik. Buffalo will not go with out a win before this series is over because they are too strong to go down with out a winning fight
Posted: 9:38 PM   by Anonymous
"the experience of the Hurricanes"

Quotes often seen before:
"the experience of the Flyers"
"the experience of the Sens"

Numminen may be back for game 5. With him back, Janik is out and it's the same lineup as the game 3 in which the Sabres won. These people that are writing off the Sabres are looking too much into 1 game. It's a tie series people!

It's just a hunch, but I think it's Carolina's turn to lose an important cog in their lineup.

Connolly's done for the rest of the series...
Posted: 10:35 PM   by Anonymous
"The Hurricanes would quickly welcome Tallinder, Numminen, and Kalinin back onto the ice if they could have Erik Cole. Cole had 30 goals and 29 assists in 60 games this season."

Give me a friggin break. They got this far without Cole (3 months). I gurantee you Carolina would much rather have a healthy defense right now. i don't hear about any stupid "Cole" bathrobes being worn.

No Carolina would not trade a Cole for a healthy Buffalo Defense.
Posted: 10:40 PM   by Anonymous
As a Sabres fan, I would welcome Cole back if the Sabres had a healthy defense any day.

Just about the most ignorant observation I have ever read especially after the Canes have had a very succesful playoff run.

A gut wrenching series though, which can only mean it is pretty good playoff hockey.
Posted: 12:32 AM   by Anonymous
Quote from anonymous
"the experience of the Hurricanes"
"the experience of the Flyers"
"the experience of the Sens"
Numminen may be back for game 5. With him back, Janik is out and it's the same lineup as the game 3 in which the Sabres won. These people that are writing off the Sabres are looking too much into 1 game. It's a tie series people!


Nice to see some more optimism! The series is tied! BOTH teams still have to win twice more. Buffalo has come to far to give up now, and I know the heart of the team and I know they will never give up. I still believe in this team, I will continue to believe in them and support them whether or not they win, but I still think they can do it.
Posted: 2:43 PM   by Anonymous
Ok, you take cole and his 59 points, i'll take connolly with his 55 points in as many games (63) and 3 of our top defensemen. Who's making out? Just like a caniac...uneducated!!!!!!!!
Posted: 6:25 PM   by sabres510
Wow, that really was an ignorant comment about Carolina "welcoming back Tallinder, Kalinin and Numminen in exchange for Cole." Are you kidding me? Carolina's entire game plan in Game 4 was to just dump it in and punish the Buffalo defensemen.

I think Buffalo fans would love to have seen such a hypothetical be the case. Defense wins championships, friend, and giving Buffalo back three of its top four defensemen would really hurt Carolina's chances in this series.
Posted: 10:13 AM   by Anonymous
"I've heard that Carolina is a deep team but all I've seen this series is Staal and Stillman."

Very insightful ... too bad it makes no sense based on the actual numbers from the series.

Looking at the numbers from the five games in the series, of the top nine Canes forwards, seven have scored at least once (Stillman 3, Williams, Brind'Amour, Staal, Recchi, Whitney 2 each, Ladd 1), while six have registered assists (Stillman, Cullen, Weight 4 each, Staal 3, Williams, Whitney 2 each).

So much for just "Stall and Stillman" ...

You really should try watching the games -- it's been an entertaining series between two very determined and skilled teams. Wonder what you've been watching instead?
Posted: 5:38 PM   by Anonymous
"Looking at the numbers from the five games in the series, of the top nine Canes forwards, seven have scored at least once (Stillman 3, Williams, Brind'Amour, Staal, Recchi, Whitney 2 each, Ladd 1), while six have registered assists (Stillman, Cullen, Weight 4 each, Staal 3, Williams, Whitney 2 each).

So much for just "Stall and Stillman" ...

You really should try watching the games -- it's been an entertaining series between two very determined and skilled teams. Wonder what you've been watching instead?"

Maybe you should learn more about hockey. Staal is spelled with two "a"s, not two "l"s as you spelled it. I've watched every game and the only Carolina players that have looked dangerous this series are Staal and Stillman. Ladd's goal was a rebound, Recchi had a deflection goal, Whitney scored 2 similar PP goals in the same period, Brind'amour was the recipient of a wonderful pass from Staal, Williams scored on a miscue by Miller, and so on. I repeat - Staal and Stillman are the only Carolina players that have looked dangerous. I'm not ripping the other players on Carolina (we all know you have some good ones); I just feel that as Staal and Stillman go, so do the Canes. Staal disappeared for parts of game 5, and Carolina mounted no offense then.

Staal gets double shifted - that's not what a true "deep" team would do. A deep team also doesn't roll 3 lines instead of 4 when they are down.

6 players with assists in 5 games contradicts what you are trying to prove. Half of your forwards don't have an assist. And, look!, those 6 players that have assists are often on the ice with...drumroll...Staal and Stillman! Other than Andrew Ladd, the lucky recipient of a Weight rebound, none of your 3rd or 4th liners have a point!

Let's not joke around - Staal is the Canes. All 4 Canes fans should realize that.
Posted: 12:53 PM   by Anonymous
How well did the sabres do against the canes when they had those D-men and we
had Cole in the regular season? I don't know the answer but I'm sure somone out there does. Cole meant more to our team than just what the stats show. Its been a good series, but the canes will dominate tonight!
Search