BUFFALO — It certainly is a little easier to be Ryan Miller, Vezina Trophy winner, when the opponent is the Maple Leafs.
Easing his way back into starting duty after missing two games with a groin injury, Miller stopped 35 of 36 Toronto shots in a 3-1 win Friday at the HSBC Arena.
Sounds like a busy night, but given that so many of the shots were harmless, clear looks, the Sabres superstar made it look easy.
“(Miller) was seeing pucks,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “We weren’t getting the secondary chances from traffic in front that would give him difficulty.”
With a guy who can stand on his head, the Sabres feel they can be a different team when it’s Miller time.
“We can play a more aggressive game because we know we have a goalie who can make a great save,” said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff.
There’s no doubt Miller loves playing the Leafs. He now has a 23-8 record against them and just missed a fifth career shutout versus Toronto. “They always have their following here and we have something to prove at home,” Miller said. “It was good to come up (big) against the Leafs.” ... How meek is the Leafs offence this season? They have now scored two goals or less in 11 of 21 games ... When they’ve been in games this season, it has largely been because of their speed. There wasn’t much of that to be found on Friday, however, especially in the first period. They were slow in the neutral zone and slow with puck and feet movement on the power-play ... You don’t see this every night: Three roughing minor penalties in one incident for the Leafs’ Colton Orr ... The blueline has been gold for the Sabres in terms of production. They get more goals from their defencemen than any team in the league. Power-play goals in the first period by Jordan Leopold gave the Sabres rearguards 15 of their 59 on the season ... The Leafs picked it up in the second, outshooting the Sabres 15-5.
He had the backing of his coach and Luke Schenn felt no remorse for laying a beating on the Sabres’ Patrick Kaleta, who nailed Leafs teammate Nikolai Kulemin early in the game. “That guy always runs around,” Schenn said. “There’s a select few guys in the league who play like that and don’t have respect for their peers.” ... Kaleta had his own revenge — a short-handed goal in the third to give the Sabres a 3-egg lead. “I saw him coming and he just fanned on the rebound and it went through my legs,” Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson said ... Despite the loss, the Monster had a big game, keeping his team in it after being dominated in the first period ...The Leafs power play, dreadful in general, is especially sickly against the Sabres. Despite a run of five consecutive man-advantage situations in the second and third, the Leafs barely got a sniff.
Around the rink
As you would expect, there were plenty of in-game promotions for the upcoming world junior championship to be played here. No better advertisement than on the ice, though. By one count, a total of 22 players on the Sabres and Leafs have played in the tourney ... Surprising to see several rows of empty seats in the corners of the arena. Usually, Leafs fans scoop those up, especially for a Friday game ... It may end up costing him one day if the refs feel he’s overselling, but Leafs rookie Nazem Kadri does a good job drawing penalties, including a pair on this night ... Good line by Sabres colour commentator Harry Neale: “Dumb penalties are the hardest to kill.” Both of the Sabres’ first-period power-play efforts came during Orr’s time in the box and the latter on a five-on-three created by Kris Versteeg’s elbowing penalty.