Ryan Miller stops 44 shots, gets stuck with another loss

Paul Bereswill

Imagine how bad the Sabres are going to be when Ryan Miller isn't around to keep the game close.

At some point this season the Buffalo Sabres are going to trade starting goaltender and free agent-to-be Ryan Miller.

When that happens we're really going to find out just how bad this team can be.

The Sabres lost again on Thursday night, 2-0, to the New York Rangers and closed out what has to be one of the single worst months of hockey in the history of the franchise.  As has been the case for much of the season in Buffalo, the game really wasn't as close as the final score.

Had it not been for Miller turning aside 44 shots it probably could have -- and perhaps should have -- been a hell of a lot worse.

Just consider:

  • The Sabres ended the night getting outshot 46-29. It's already the 10th time in 15 games this season they have been outshot by more than 10 shots in a game. It's already the fifth time they've allowed more than 40 shots, and the second time Miller has had to stop at least 44 shots and still lost. In both games the Sabres scored zero goals for him.
  • After one period on Thursday the Rangers attempted 34 shots to the Sabres' 10
  • After two periods, those numbers expanded to 62 shot attempts for the Rangers to just 29 for Bufflao. The Sabres ended the with just four more total attempts than the Rangers had shots on goal. Even worse, most of Buffalo's shots started to come in the latter half of the third period when it was starting to become clear that New York was just going to sit on its two-goal lead. The shot chart, via Extra Skater, perfectly illustrates just how big of a gap there was on Thursday.
(The Rangers are blue, the Sabres are red)

Screen_shot_2013-10-31_at_10

No chance.

The Sabres have played nearly 20 percent of their season and have managed to win just one game in regulation. In their past 20 regular season games dating back to last season they have won just two games in regulation (they've won three additional games in shootouts). That's bad. Very bad. And keep in mind, this is all happening with Ryan Miller on the team. At some point this season, as this complete teardown and rebuilding of the organization continues, he will not be there. Even though Miller hasn't duplicated the success he had in 2009-10 when he was the best goalie in the league and backstopped team USA to a silver medal at the Olympics, he has still be a steady, reliable goaltender that's always been at or above the league average.

He's actually having a pretty decent season this year. And the Sabres aren't even close to winning with him.

With Thursday's loss Buffalo is now just 2-12-1 on the season, which would put them on a pace for just around 27 points over 82 games. The last teams to finish a full season with less than 30 points were the 1992-93 Sharks (who went 11-71--2 in their second year in the league) and the 1992-93 Ottawa Senators (they went 10-70-4 in their debut season).

There is very little to suggest there is any sort of a turnaround coming, either.

Dating back to the 2007-08 season the worst FenClose team (that's percentage of unblocked shot attempts when the score of the game is within one goal -- it's simply a measure of puck possession when the game is close) was the 2007-08 Atlanta Thrashers, finishing that season at 41.2 percent.

After Thursday's loss the Sabres currently sit at 37.9 percent this season.

They haven't just been bad so far this season, they've been historically bad.

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