The Buffalo Sabres are making a huge effort to get into the playoff race. If they are able to get back into the playoffs this year it will come after being more than 10 points down after the all star break. That kind of turnaround does not happen often.
The Sabres' off season acquisitions fueled expectations of a Stanley Cup run. Instead the team was free-falling in the East standings and looking all but done. On January 29 the Sabres were in 14th place, ten points out of 8th, and 2-7-1 in their previous 10 games.
What turned things around? For one thing Buffalo is playing a lot better on the road. Along with better play on the road the Sabres have limited their goals against and have done a better job lately of not giving up leads. Their recent road trip out west was impressive. They shutout Anaheim, one of the hottest teams in the league. Then they came right back and shutout San Jose. A win in Vancouver over the top team in the West made it a season-saving road trip. Despite losing the last game against Winnipeg before returning home, the Sabres did exactly what they had to do to get back in the race. Win on the road.
And, while Buffalo may be giving up fewer shots, the most important reason why they are on the upswing is goaltender Ryan Miller. Miller has found his form and beginning to dominate his opponents. His play is crucial to the Sabres. Miller playing with confidence gives the guys in front of him great confidence. They know that they do not have to be perfect. Miller will make the big save if they slip up. Having that belief in a goalie frees up a team to play loose, offensive hockey.
Miller has the ability to be a shutdown goaltender. Early season struggles in the net really hurt Buffalo. But now Ryan Miller is playing like himself and giving the team the confidence it needs down the stretch to catch one of the teams in the top 8 positions. It would not be surprised if Buffalo does get in and creates some real problems for one of the top seeds. Why? Because Ryan Miller has tons of playoff experience and can backstop a team to upsets in the playoffs.