Miller Feeling the Pressure of a Rocky Start

Its hard to see Ryan Miller as anything other than one of the leagues top goalies.  He has been the rock in Buffalo since the lock out, and has outplayed entire offensive units time and time again to keep a shaking hockey club in games.  This season however seems to be getting the better of the silver medalist, and it only seems to be getting worse.

Last night against the Philadelphia Flyers, Miller let in three goals within the first six and a half minutes.  Not only is this unheard of for Miller, but he has never been one of the teams weak links, especially at home.  It seems this season’s expectations might be too much pressure for the 31 year old.  Miller has always been the type of player who is harder on himself then anyone could possibly be on him, and it seems like he is having similar problems as the Thomas Vanek of years past.  He consistanty focuses on his mistakes and its starting to effect his game in a very noticable way.

Miller is letting in soft goals pure and simple, and with a struggling offense that just won’t keep him in the starting position.  It seems like when Miller lets in the first easy one because he is over thinking his play, he then lets the pressure snowball into another soft shot that goes in.  The game against Florida last weekend was as un-Millerish as fans have ever seen him.  The first shot going in from an impossible angled shot, and only made it past the goal line because Miller wasn’t hugging the post.  The second goal happened because Miller made the initial save, and then never got back up until the puck was in the net.  These are fundamental goalie skills that he isn’t using, and its putting his team behind before they even have a chance to get their legs warmed up.

Without a doubt you will see the backup, Jhonas Enroth start tomorrow night against the Flames at home in Buffalo.  Enroth, who has only been tested twice this year and is so far two for two should give the Sabres a chance in what seems like a must win game at home.  Must win, not because the Sabres can’t recover from this dip they have had, but because they need to start winning at home.  The Sabres are a team that thrives on their fans support, and right now they aren’t giving us too much to cheer about. 

This is not going to be a Dominik Hasek taking over for Grant Fuhr situation, but hopefully it will be the time that Miller needs off to get his head straight.  Fans should expect #30 to start in Ottawa Saturday night.  He simply needs to get himself on a roll so that he can come into the First Niagara Center with the confidence he has had in the past.  There is no doubt that inside Ryan Miller there is still a world-class goaltender, he just needs to start believing it. 

What has to be the toughest part for Miller is just how fast the fans have turned on him this season.  Miller has never been booed off the ice before this season, and last night when he was, it seemed to bring out the worst in him.  For almost all games, Ryan has been completely (or seemingly so) oblivious to the people in the stands.  However last night he was shown turning around and acknowledging a fans negative comments.  This is a sign that his focus is off.  He wont even put his glove up when getting off the ice for intermission to touch fans outstretched hands, and now he's letting an overweight burger flipper get into his head?  Something is wrong with Ryan, and until he gets his flow back, it will always be a coin flip as to which side of Miller we will get between the pipes.

The puck drops tomorrow night at First Niagara Center at 7:30 Eastern, and it will be a true test as to how well Buffalo can bounce back from a very poor showing Wednesday night.

 

Let’s Go BUFF-A-LO!!!

 

Scotty