Miller posts second 1-0 shutout, Sabres even series

By David Strehle
NHL H
ot Stove NHL / Philadelphia Flyers Correspondent

Game four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres bore a striking resemblance to game one, as Sabres’ goaltender Ryan Miller posted his second 1-0 whitewashing of the Orange-and-Black.

What differed between the two shutouts was the quality of Philadelphia’s scoring chances in the two.  In game one Miller made 35 saves, but there wasn’t much in the way of traffic to take away his vision or any rebound opportunities for the Flyers.

It was similar early on in the contest tonight, but Philly had several incredible occasions to put the puck into the Buffalo net as the game progressed, but were thwarted by Miller.

The only goal of the game came at the 9:38 mark of the first period, as Rob Niedermayer made a nifty goal-mouth pass to Jason Pominville, who was able to tap it into the open side past Philadelphia starter Brian Boucher.

It was yet another game where the Flyers had golden opportunities in tight, but appeared to have an invisible barrier covering the opening of the opposition cage.

Miller finished the night with 32 saves.  Perhaps his two best came in the third period, on Danny Briere all alone in front and Mike Richards on a rebound in one of the many scrums around the Buffalo crease.

Speaking of deja vu, there was something else that was familiar tonight.  Leading goal-scorer Jeff Carter was injured when he was hit by a Chris Pronger slap shot in game four of the first round last year against the New Jersey Devils, and he suffered an injury in game four tonight.

As he skated across the slot area in front of Miller, gargantuan Sabres’ defenseman Tyler Myers was cutting out in front of the net.  It appeared that neither player saw the other as they collided, and both players were immediately dazed and went to their respective locker rooms.

Myers appeared to have taken Carter’s shoulder across his jaw and was stunned, remaining down on the ice for several moments.  He would return in the second period.

Carter’s issue appeared to be his right knee, which was tangled with Myers.  Carter did not return to the game, and is now being listed by the Flyers as “day-to-day”.  Seeing what that has meant for Pronger, it is unclear what type of time frame Carter is looking at to come back.

Philadelphia’s penalty killing unit again had a stellar night, squelching all four Buffalo opportunities with the man advantage.  Included was a five-minute major assessed to Richards with 2.8 seconds left in the second period.

Instigator Patrick Kaleta skated in to hit Richards up high, and the Flyers’ captain put his arms up to protect himself.  Richards’ elbow came in contact with Kaleta’s face, and the Sabre fell to the ice as if hit by a train.

Buffalo managed only two shots on goal during the five-minutes, and the kill seemed to give the Orange-and-Black a boost of energy as they picked up their offensive attack when the penalty time expired.

But Philadelphia could not solve Miller the rest of the way.

Even when the Flyers did beat Miller, his defense was there to cover up for him.  In the first period, James van Riemsdyk found himself with the puck on his stick with Miller and the Sabres’ goalie down and out.  But as van Riemsdyk went to deposit the puck into the yawning cage, Myers dove across to deflect the shot – which was a certain goal – out of play.

There were other chances – Darroll Powe chopped a shot through a mass of humanity in front of a screened Miller, only to have the puck clank off of the post.

When Miller was asked after the game if he felt that he answered some of his critics with tonight’s effort, he snapped “I really don’t care what people say that don’t know how to play goalie.  I really don’t give an…expletive.”  (And yes, he actually said the word “expletive”).

Boucher was excellent in his third consecutive appearance and second straight start.  The 34-year-old veteran stopped 28 of 29 shots, beaten only on a back door pass on a two-on-on-one down low that he had no chance to turn aside.

Philadelphia has to be encouraged by the fact that they could have won the game had a couple of bounces gone a bit differently.

But Miller poses a problem this team needs to solve, and fast.  The series now becomes a best-of-three the rest of the way.

Game five is in Philadelphia on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

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Taking a Flyer:  The game held true to the formula of the rest of the series, as the team that scored first has won all four contests thus far.  It is also a league-wide occurrence, as the team netting the first marker in a game had won 21 of he 25 NHL postseason games heading into Wednesday night’s action…van Riemsdyk led all skaters with six shots on goal…With Carter out of the lineup for over two thirds of the game, Claude Giroux led Flyers’ forwards in ice time with 21:01, and Briere posted 20:11…Giroux also won 10-15 faceoffs…Tonight was just the fourth time in franchise history Philadelphia has been shut out more than once in a playoff series (1969 QF vs. St. Louis, 1973 QF vs. Minnesota, 1989 Wales Conference Finals vs. Montreal, 2002 ECQF vs. Ottawa).  In the Minnesota series, the Flyers were shut out in Games 1 and 3 and came back to win the series in six games…It was the first time in franchise history the Flyers have been shut out 1-0 twice in the same series.  The two shutouts are just the third and fourth 1-0 shutout losses in the playoffs in franchise history…Ville Leino won all five faceoffs he took tonight.

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If you have any comments or questions, you can email the author at dstrehle@nhlhotstove.com.  You can also follow him on Twitter – @David_Strehle