Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

May 14, 2007

TIM SCHMITT: Miller shines, but the cruel joke is on him


KANATA, Ontario — If that puck bounced off the back boards a hundred times, make it a thousand, Ryan Miller would grab every single one as it slowly trickled back to him, wobbling easily away from harm.

But this time, when his team couldn’t afford a single mistake, not even a once-in-a-million mistake, Miller’s concentration wavered for the slightest moment, and Daniel Alfredsson was offered the Sabres’ head on a Canadian platter. Ottawa, once only familiar with the hammering noise from inside the coffin, now finds itself the one with the tool belt dangling from its hips.

Alfredsson’s decisive goal, the one that broke the Sabres’ back on Monday, was a cruel trick played on the guy who’s put his team in position to win all season long, who’s been the solid ground from which the fireworks have been set.

“We ruined a pretty good performance from our goaltender tonight,” Lindy Ruff said, still smarting from a painfully vanilla performance from everyone not in goalie pads.

To pin any of this on Miller is ludicrous, even if Ruff tried to use his magical motivational wand by mentioning to the media that Miller needed to step up for Game 3 — something, by the way, only a seasoned coach who’d had a heart-to-heart with his star netminder would have done. Ruff knows Miller is resilient, and you needn’t look further than the performance he made following the gaffe on Alfredsson’s goal for evidence. Miller was scintillating, robbing Senators left and right, keeping the Sabres one bounce of their own from pulling even, just like he did in the overtime of Game 2 when the Sabres should have had verve and spunk after getting a death sentence reprieve.

And while Ruff knew that would be Miller’s response, it’s become painfully obvious the rest of this team’s psyche is in a cryogenic coma.

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