In the beginning of Sunday night’s matchup between the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres, CSN’s infamous TV color analyst, Craig Laughlin provided viewers with his quirky yet simple key to the game: “Don’t Get Buffalo’ed!” Following a period or two of play, with undeniable talent being demonstrated by the Sabres’ goaltender, Ryan Miller, Laughlin rephrased his key to “Don’t Get Miller’ed,” and that’s exactly what happened to the Caps as they fell 2-1 in a tough shootout loss.
The goaltending matchup headed into the game was neck and neck. The game proved the stats true, as the skill level showcased between the two net-minders was simply phenomenal through the game’s entirety. Ryan Miller, who sits as the second top candidate in Team USA’s goalie ranking for the 2014 games in Sochi, went into this game with a .921 save percentage. Young Philipp Grubauer on the other hand, set out with a .937 save percentage, granted he had only made eight appearances prior to this game, two of which were in relief of Braden Holtby. As expected, Grabauer who has been hot for the Caps lately, is getting the nod from Adam Oates between the pipes for Washington over ever faithful starter, Braden Holtby in the past couple of games, allowing Braden to work on his game. Holtby is expected to change that though as the Caps head to the great white North to face the Ottawa Senators Monday night at Canadian Tire Centre.
The Caps’ game against the Sabres got off to a slow start but was dominated primarily by the Caps in their offensive zone throughout the opening period. Washington recorded the first 12 shots on goal, but with 4:32 left, Buffalo finally shot their first puck at Grubauer’s net. The Caps headed into the first intermission with a 15-3 shot advantage. It wasn’t until late in the second period that the showdown began to intensify as Caps’ rookie winger, Tom Wilson laid a crushing but clean hit on Sabres’ forward, Ville Leino, which led to the upheaval of a fight by Marcus Foligno, who ultimately received 17 minutes in penalty time for instigating and sent the Caps to an unproductive power play. With blood boiling and the Buffalo crowd more excited than they’d been the entire game, the Sabres took the lead with 1:42 remaining in the second period, regardless of being outshot by their neighboring Metropolitan division opponents 30-10. The Capitals finally ended up tying the game off Troy Brouwer’s beauty of a slap shot early into the final period of play. With no pucks netted in the remaining 15 minutes of regulation, or the 5 minutes of extra time given in OT, the shootout determined the victor. Both Miller and Grubauer made incredible stops in the shootout, where Steve Ott sent a rocket to Grubauer’s twine to close out the game, and give Buffalo the 2 points.
All in all, the goalies put on quite the show, otherwise it would have been a rather boring and uneventful game. Miller’s performance was unbelievable for the Sabres, which undoubtedly made a grand statement for his spot on the Olympic roster. He ended the game with 49 saves and went 6 for 6 in the shootout, including shots faced by Capitals superstars, Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom. If one thing is for absolute certain, Miller did not look like the goaltender of the team with the worst record in the league on Sunday night! If he continues to keep this solid play up that he demonstrated against the Caps, Team USA is headed in all the right directions toward the gold medal in Sochi this February.