November 08, 2011
"I'm here to win. That's the emotion you get from me. If I'm discouraged, if I'm [ticked] off, that's just how it is. I want to win. I don't want to be out there getting scored on. I don't want to be pulled out of a game. I want to, you know, I want to [expletive] win the game." — Ryan Miller(notes) of the Buffalo Sabres, on Nov. 7. Only he didn't say [ticked] and [expletive].
The agitated Ryan Miller is usually both a sign of adversity and a harbinger of great things to come. The exchange above came after Monday's Buffalo Sabres practice, following the first time in five years Miller didn't start for consecutive games.
Jhonas Enroth(notes), his able understudy, is 4-0-0 in his last four starts, giving up seven goals. Ryan Miller is 0-4-0 in his last four starts, giving up 12 goals and getting pulled six minutes into the Sabres' game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
So there was a bit of intrigue heading into Tuesday night's home game against the Winnipeg Jets: Enroth or Miller?
It's Miller time, said Coach Lindy Ruff to Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News:
"Everything in this case gets blown out of proportion a little bit,' Ruff said. "Probably Jhonas' numbers (4-0-0, 1.41, .952) are a little unrealistic and Ryan's (0-4, 3.91 in the last four) have taken a hit on some real bad plays by our hockey club at the same time. Any player can go through a tough stretch. In Ryan's situation, he's played good but he hasn't played great and I'll be the first to admit that. It might be a timely save here or there that makes a difference."
Calling this a goaltending controversy is premature. Wondering about Miller handling the pressure in Buffalo isn't, considering his occasional outbursts regarding criticism and his slip on the stat sheet last season (chalked up to Olympic exhaustion by many).
Joe P. of Buffalo Wins had an interesting piece on Friday (via Die By The Blade) about "the disconnect between Miller and a lot of Buffalo", and how the pressures in this long-term relationship are manifesting in Miller's demeanor:
My word of advice to #30: I think he needs to go and find his smile somewhere. He needs to turn off the radio. Burn a copy of The Buffalo News. Stop giving a [poop] what anyone in the media or community thinks of him. He needs to go home and look at his hot wife. Maybe he should pull a Romo and go to Cabo for a day or two. I don't care if Miller is a [jerk]. I don't need him to be like the majority of the Bills players, who have embraced the Bills Mafia. I don't care about his quotes after games. I don't need him to cry at his locker room. I don't need him to kiss a baby's cheek. I don't need him to stay in WNY during the offseason. I don't need him to get a tattoo of a Buffalo on his back.
He's still RYAN MILLER. American Hero, guy with his own cereal, yadda yadda. He's still an elite goaltender, who will probably respond to being frustrated and embarrassed by erecting a cement wall in front of the goal against the Jets this evening.
But inconsistency is now a mainstay in his game, and agitation is a frequent visitor in his comments after rough stretches. Hopefully Miller doesn't give fans and media a reason to doubt him, and they can go back to figuring out whether Tyler Myers is perilously overrated. You know, the important stuff.