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Is Ryan Miller the primary reason the Sabres are successful? April 7, 2010

Posted by calvin in Uncategorized.
Tags: , ,

Look – we all know Ryan Miller has had a great season. We know he played unbelievably in the Olympics. Yes, he’s stolen some games for the team. But I’m hearing a lot of talk about Miller being nominated for the Hart Trophy (league MVP). How warranted is the consideration?

Let’s take a look at the numbers. First, we’ll compare the Goals Against Average and Save Percentage for the top goaltenders in the league:

Tuuka Rask 1.99 GAA, .930 save %

Antti Niemi 2.15 GAA, .915 save %

Ryan Miller 2.23 GAA, .928 save %

Martin Brodeur 2.26 GAA, .916 save %

Miikka Kiprusoff 2.27 GAA,.922 save %

Jaroslav Halak 2.32 GAA, .927 save %

Tomas Vokoun 2.55 GAA, .925 save %

Jimmy Howard 2.30 GAA, .923 save %

Ryan Miller is third in GAA and second in save %. Both elite numbers, but let’s look further…

He’s faced the fourth-most shots in the league and is 19th in total goals allowed. Miller is 16th in the league in shootouts. His save % is .643. The league leaders, both of whom have been involved in three shootouts versus Miller’s five, have 1.00 – perfect – save %.

Miller is fourth in wins with 40. Brodeur, Nabokov, and Bryzgalov all have more wins. He’s seventh in time on the ice, meaning six other goalies have played more than him. He’s 9th in power play save % and eighth in shorthanded save % (amongst goalies who’ve played 40 games or more).

Now that I’ve stuffed your head full of stats, what do they mean?

That Ryan Miller has been a very, very good goaltender this season. The Sabres have clinched the Northeast Division and will finish third at worst in the Eastern Conference. But clearly he’s not the only reason for the team’s success. Let’s look at some other numbers:

Buffalo is fourth in the league in win percentage when they score first. Part of that success is undoubtedly that Miller keeps them in games, but it also means the team knows how to play with and keep a lead. They’re perfect when leading after two, in fact. Their goal differential is fifth in the league and their goals for per game is ninth, both very respectable numbers. One thing Ryan Miller doesn’t do – score goals. They’re in the middle of the pack in times shut-out. They’re the seventh least-penalized team…

The point is – there are a lot of reasons the Sabres are successful. Miller is indisputably a crucial piece of the puzzle but he’s not the only or even the primary reason the Sabres are sitting pretty going into the playoffs.

Did I miss something important in my analysis? Do you think I’m understating Miller’s importance? Feel free to argue with me in the comments.



1. Pominville is a Whiny Bitch - April 9, 2010

Personally, I think your bias towards forwards is evident. You’re trying to shift the focus from the single-best player this team has had since Dominik Hasek, onto a group of average-at-best players that wouldn’t crack the 2nd line on any other top-tier team. How much more proof do you need than the Rangers game on Tuesday? Two of our top-three forwards were out, along with our lone enforcer (sadly, Kaleta), replaced in the lineup by two virtual rookies and a journeyman AHL player (Mancari), and they roll a team desperate for a playoff berth. You can’t sit there and tell me that Miller isn’t the catalyst for *ALL* of their success!

If you need more proof, look how the exact same team played against Boston last night, with Lalime in net. Miller enables them to play harder, he enables the defense to pinch in, he enables the rookies to make mistakes. If they get caught (when they get caught), they usually don’t pay a price for it. Miller is there to do what no other Sabres goalie has been able to do since 2001.

Who on this team is 1/10 the player that Miller is? Vanek? Connolly? POMINVILLE? Come on…

P.S. I think you’re dead-on that it’s a total team effort that has improved their standing in the league. I just wanted to be vitriolic. 😉

manda903 - April 9, 2010

You’re lucky I love you, Rosey. 😉 Otherwise I would take offense that you don’t think my analysis is perfect. And for your information, my bias is actually toward defensemen, I just think Pominville is a solid, dependable two-way player. Plus, he’s nice, and that – whether or not it should – counts for something to me.

2. Caroline - April 7, 2010

Actually, out of goalies who have played 40 or more games, Ryan Miller leads the league in SV% during shorthanded situations with a .917 SV%. He’s 9th overall in the league, but the only goalies ahead of him is Ty Conklin who has only played 24 games, and the rest are goalies who have played in less than 5 games.

And I just don’t think stats are everything…although you did a good job at breaking them down to see which goalies have played the most minutes, faced the most shots, etc.

So far, Ryan Miller has played 68 games which makes him 7th in the league for games played, as you have already mentioned. But if you compare his numbers with the top 10 goalies in games played, you can see how his numbers stand out. 3rd in wins, 1st in GAA, and 1st in SV%.

Ryan Miller is the most important part of this team, but he’s not the only reason the Sabres are successful, but I think it’s obvious that he is the biggest reason. Look at the Sabres record without Ryan in the lineup. We saw what happened to the team last year when he was out for a month with an ankle injury. They went from being a 5th-6th place team in the Eastern Conference, to slipping right out of playoff contention.

This season Ryan has shown that he’s really elevated his game to a new level, and he hasn’t really faltered all season long, despite getting the majority of the workload with the Sabres and playing in every Olympic game up to the Gold Medal round.

Like I mentioned earlier, I also don’t think the stats are going to tell the whole story. If you just watch Ryan and see how he makes crucial saves during important times, you can see how important he is. Last night’s save on Marion Gaborik on a 4-on-1 is a perfect example. It seemed to have been a turning point during the game, and Lindy and the players said in their post-game interviews that they fed off that save. Those are the kind of saves that help a team win games, especially in the playoffs He rarely lets in a deflating goal, and whenever he’s starting, he gives his team a chance to win up until the very end. I don’t think there are stats out there that can show that…but I think anyone who has followed the Sabres this season could understand what I’m talking about.

There have been several names that have been thrown around over who is going to be nominated for the Hart, but I believe that it’s Miller Time. 🙂

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