Share this article

print logo

Coburn goal broad Sabres' spirit Barrage by Flyers finally paid off

In a series where so much of the chatter was about the Philadelphia Flyers' three-headed goaltending troubles and their struggles to beat Ryan Miller, the finish was a bizarre one.

Brian Boucher put up the numbers and earned all four of his team's victories. Miller got the hook in the third period of Game Seven.

"I hope this stays with us for a while," a solemn Miller said after the 5-2 loss to the Flyers Tuesday in the Wells Fargo Center. "There's a lot of guys in this locker room returning. Just like Boston the year before [in the first round of the playoffs] and this year with Philly, these chances don't come around often and you can't waste them."

The Sabres goaltender stood on his head for virtually the entire first period while his team mostly stood around and got outshot, 16-2. Then he flubbed a deflected shot from Braydon Coburn with just 18.2 seconds left in the first period and the Sabres never recovered.

The puck struck the outstretched left glove of Mike Grier and hopped between Miller's pads. The Sabres never caught up.

"We almost got away with that first period and maybe it would have been a different game," Miller said. "I thought we were going to get away with it and it was a tough bounce. It changed direction on me a bit. I was reaching to play it to the corner and it ended up diving down off Mike."

It was a bizarre series for Miller. He had two shutouts, making him the only NHL goalie to collect two so far. And he was heroic in making 44 saves in Sunday's 5-4 overtime defeat.

But for all the talk about the Flyers' revolving trio, Boucher actually entered Game Seven with a better goals-against average and better save percentage than Miller.

And the final numbers, bloated by the blowout in the finale, really don't show Miller in a great light as he gave up 18 goals in the Flyers' four wins.

Boucher finished the series with a 2.10 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. Miller's numbers were 2.93 and .917.

Had the Sabres escaped the period still scoreless, they could have attempted to refocus for the middle frame and reestablish their offensive game. Instead, they were down and basically out.

Miller had no chance on a pair of power-play goals in the second period, a tap-in by Danny Briere and a deflection by James van Riemsdyk. But he was yanked after Ville Leino beat him on a slapshot 1:59 into the third. Miller was down far too early on Leino's shot and didn't really have his angle played well either.

The shot whizzed over his left shoulder and Miller dejectedly sat in the crease as the sellout crowd blew the roof off the Wells Fargo Center.

Lindy Ruff had seen enough. He sent Jhonas Enroth out for his first playoff action as Miller skated slowly to the bench. Miller tapped Enroth on the leg to wish him luck and Ruff came down to give a quick "it's not your fault"-type message to his goalie.

Miller listened, then disappeared down the tunnel into the offseason.

"That had nothing to do with Ryan's game," Ruff said. "I just felt at 4-0 that Jhonas had been a part of getting us to this point and he needed to experience a little bit of this. It had nothing to do with Ryan's game."

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

There are no comments - be the first to comment