Monday, January 29, 2007

Miller Robs Him Blind!

The Sabres starting goalie is Ryan Miller, he of the (now slightly less) long flowing locks. As those of you who watched any of Versus' playoff coverage know, he's 26 years old (he had a b-day since then), went to Michigan State, and is so thin his leg pads have to be specially fitted for him. After a very good college career which included a Hobey Baker Award (outstanding men's hockey player), Ryan struggled some in adapting to the professional game. He's very philosophical and in his own head and that really worked against him. If he gave up a goal it seemed to completely derail him which is a problem since most goalies do tend to give up the occasional goal. He would get fixated on his mistakes and had a difficult time putting them behind him. Many Sabres fans remember him getting beat in Detroit (in front of many friends and family members) and then breaking down and crying through all his post-game interviews. The boy, he was fragile.

Something happened though and he managed to find some mental toughness. Sometimes it's hard to remember that last season was his first as the starter. Unlike the days of yesteryear, poor performances seem to spur him on. If he has a bad game, he's almost sure to follow it up with a great game. When he wasn't selected for the Olympic team last year, he went on a hot streak, seeming to play especially well against teams whose coaches or GMs had something to do with the selection process. His style is a bit of a mish-mash. He's very athletic, but he rarely has to make highlight reel saves because he's almost always reading the play and in position for the shot. He's a perfect goalie for the Sabres style of play. Because the offense is so agressive and the defense is often joining in on the rush or pinching in, we give up a pretty decent amount of odd man rushes and good scoring opportunities. Ryan never seems to panic in those situations and he rarely bites on a deke or a fake. He always lets the shooter make the first move. Despite the fact that he didn't look great in the shootout portion of the skills competition the other night (perhaps he was trying to sucker the Western Conference into thinking he has a glaring weak spot?), I think he has to be one of the best breakaway goalies in the league. I'm always a little shocked when someone scores on him in that kind of situation.

A rare highlight reel save from just a few weeks ago against Boston:


I love watching Ryan during the national anthems. He stands in his crease and turns toward the Canadian flag, looking up at it during O, Canada. Then when The Star Spangled Banner starts, he turns toward the U.S. flag. Him staring up at that flag with the flag super-imposed on the ice around him is an awesome image. Before every game he stands at the bench, chin resting on his stick, in a few long moments of meditation. (See Paige's post for a great photo of this.) The only superstition I know of is the Miller spin. At intermissions, he's the last Sabre off the ice. He skates to the doorway, stops, and spins around before exiting. If you ever see him play live, watch for it. It's kind of cute.

I totally adore Marty Biron so it took me a while to warm up to Ryan but the kid's growing on me. He's so laid back it's hard to not like him. He's kind of a quiet, go with the flow guy. He's a funny interview because he almost comes across as indifferent. I'm sure he enjoys parts of his growing stardom, but he seems like someone who just can't really be bothered with it all. He seems amused more than anything. I personally don't get the appeal (give me Gaustad!), but Ryan is super popular with the puck bunnies and preteens of the world - you could tell he had stopped to sign autographs at the team scrimmage in the preseason by the rising shrieeeeeeeeeks coming from all the 12-year-olds. He's also one of the most popular with kids. Ryan is very, very sweet with fans as far as I've seen however and has a smile for everyone. GM Dary Reiger has been very upfront about the fact that the organization feels the team should be build around the goalie position and if he has anything to do with it, Ryan will be standing in the crease for Buffalo for a very a long time.

A few words about Marty Biron, one of the league's best back-ups. Many of you love Marty so I won't go on about his charming personality, his beautiful eyes, his friendly, talkative nature, or his team-first mentality. Marty is a great back-up and will probably be a solid starter if not a star. He makes a lot of great saves but usually lets in one softie a game. He plays with spirit and never hesitates to leave the crease to charge a skater or poke a stick at a guy and he's totally willing to mix it up when necessary. When Scott Nichols sucker-punched Jaroslav Spacek, (which Spacek admittedly kind of earned) the first guy on Nichols was Marty. Many a team has been torn asunder by a goalie controversy but the Sabres have thrived (mostly - let's ignore the last month or so please) under the two goalie system and it's largely because of Marty. He's been very honest about the fact that he'd like to get more starts (and he should be starting more in my opinion) but he's never let it dim his awesome personality. Lindy is on the record as saying that he believes part of the reason Ryan had such a great season last year is because he had Marty behind him offering support and encouragement whenever he needed it. Because we have a little group of players who have come up through the system together (Pominville, Roy, Miller, Vanek, Mair etc.) chemistry is one thing we don't really have to worry about in Buffalo, but I know the lockerroom will seem a little bit darker once Marty moves on. If he ends up on your team, I want your solemn promise that you'll love him and enjoy him as much as Buffalo has. Got it?!

10 comments:

Paige said...

Gotta love it. We have the best duo of goalies out there. Plus, I can't get over Marty's eyes...

Sherry said...

[sigh]

Heather...my love for Marty, you have no idea. Sometimes it just hurts.

Jordi said...

Souray for Marty. Seriously. I want Marty - no I NEED Marty. Souray? He does not make me yearn!

*hits Sherry over the head with a kettle* I guess she's not interested :P

Paige said...

Is it just me, or would the world rather have Marty than my dear Millsy?

Margee said...

In bed, yes.

Sherry said...

Hey, as a good Christian girl that was not what I meant!

OUCH! Thanks alot Jordi. See how awesome he is? We're willing to turn on each other for him.

Paige said...

http://www.forbes.com/free_forbes/2006/1127/106.html?boxes=custom

Check this website out, it's an article on how the Buffalo Sabres came back from the dead...

Also, do any of you know that Marty is married w/ kids? Just letting you know.

hockeygirl said...

Paige: Don't worry, we know. It's all in good fun. You'll soon find out that we are a little crazy and nutty but mean no harm at all.

Shan said...

Why would WE want Marty? There's no room for a backup on our team, let alone a starter.

That was a nice save, kinda reminds me of Oiler Cujo against Dallas one playoff.

Jordi said...

Shan: For the special benchwarming seat reserved for comedic French Canadian goalies.

And ahaha Margee, in a few words you just basically upped the competition to a whole new level.