Series squared. Ryan Miller took over from Thomas Vanek for the night and put the Sabres on his back. That was some Olympic MVP goaltending from Miller tonight.
Between robbing Danny Briere blind and making numerous big saves, it is safe to say that Miller earned his first star status. He didn’t have too much time off this evening as Buffalo was fairly weak along the boards and in clearing the zone all night. Lindy Ruff made a good point that the two posts the Sabres hit in the first period could have buried Philly. Unfortunately the hockey gods left it up to Miller.
Now it becomes the time to settle down and move past this game. Game five is a biggie as this has boiled down to a best-of-three between two teams who are really starting to hate each other. Here are a few things to rest on until Friday:
– Ryan Miller reverting to Vancouver form. I want to restate what I said previously. Miller’s play tonight was on par with the way he played as the USA advanced to the gold medal game in Vancouver. Aside from being a little overactive in the first period, he was on his game all night and made a ton of huge saves.
– This series is really turning into a bloodbath. Danny Briere must have run over Tyler Myers’ dog or something. Myers made it his personal mission to abuse Briere for the entire night. If Briere wasn’t around Myers took his frustration out on Mike Richards or any other Flyer forward.
– I’m sure that Flyers fans are earning a healthy hate for many members of the Sabres, but I feel like there are a large number of d-bags on the Flyers roster. Sure, you can expect Powe, Carcillo and Hartnell to play with an edge and perhaps a little dirty. Briere and Richards will get their shots when they can. But Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk and Kris Versteeg are really painting themselves as huge douchers. Same goes for that typical Euro Timonen for that spear on Gerbe at the buzzer, typical Eurotrash move on that one.
– The Sabres power play continues to astound me. Truthfully, have they not sat down and figured out a new way to move the puck when the opponent uses additional pressure? If they play the numbers and exploit the 3-on-2 below the dots they can engage their point men. Now all they are doing is creating turnovers as the Philly wingers push out on the points. That really needs to improve moving forward.
– Bearing down on the boards in the d-zone seems to be a problem lately too. Credit the Flyers for identifying the ability to press the wings on the breakouts in order to create havoc on the forecheck. They also seem to have the reverse pegged down well, a big cause of all the zone time for Philly in this series.
– Brian Boucher deserves some credit. Sure, he struggles with rebounds at times but this guy has made some huge stops. I don’t know if I would go so far to say he has kept Philly in the series – I don’t think either goalie deserves that distinction – but he has been a revelation for them. I feel like he will struggle against a big team that can get bodies to the paint. However, against the Sabres, he has been very strong.
Game five promises to be physical. It also promises to be loud. I don’t have a strong opinion regarding Friday’s outcome because I still view this series as house money. Buffalo was wallowing at the bottom of the league before storming back. Now they are knotted at two with the defending Eastern Conference champions. A win would be huge. Nay, a win would be monstrous as they head back for an Easter matinee. Based on the first four games, the only certainty for game five will be some nasty, physical play.