Ryan Miller vs. the Penguins: Is Sidney Crosby to Blame?


Most Sabres fans are aware of the fact that Ryan Miller does not have the greatest track record against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The question, however, is whether or not Sidney Crosby is the cause of Miller’s misfortunes against the Pens. After all, Crosby did score the goal that gave Canada the gold medal in the 2010 Olympics. Yes, it still hurts. I decided that this was a question worthy of being answered through the use of statistics. In today’s post I’ll examine Miller’s performance against the Pens and determine if Crosby truly is the cause of Miller’s troubles against this loathsome team.

In the figure below, you can see Miller’s career numbers against the Pens. According to my research, it appears that Miller never made an appearance against the Pens during the regular season until Crosby was drafted.

Ryan Miller Career Numbers vs. Penguins*

As you can see above, Miller’s numbers versus the Pens are not very good. His career SV% of 0.886 is his lowest against any team in the NHL. His GAA is only worse against the Detroit Red Wings, at 3.30 with a 0.909 SV%. For a better comparison, by looking at teams Miller has a minimum of 15 GP against he has a GAA greater than 3 and a SV% below 0.900 for one other team. That team is the NY Islanders, where he sports career numbers of 3.12 and 0.894, respectively. His record against the Islanders, however, is better than that against the Pens at 11-8-2**. Still not very good, but at least it’s a winning record. His record against the Pens is in the table below.

Ryan Miller Career Record vs. Penguins

Conclusions:

I think what is most interesting about the numbers above is that Miller’s record and performance is actually better WITH Sidney Crosby in the game. The data is, of course, slightly skewed when you consider that he’s only played in 4 games that did not involve Crosby. Small sample sizes are hard to draw many conclusions from. One thing that we can see, however, is that even without Crosby, Miller still cannot seem to win a game against the Pens.

The data seems to imply that Miller’s struggles against the Pens may not be entirely attributed to Sidney Crosby. However, In 13 GP, Crosby has 8G and 11A for 19 points against Miller. None of my analysis has accounted for starts by other goalies. Accounting for those goalies would likely increase his totals. Perhaps there is some credibility to the argument after all.

Truth be told, a major problem with the Sabres’ record against the Pens when Miller is in net is a lack of scoring, as you can see in the table below.

Goals Against and Goals For Per Game

As you can see, the Sabres are averaging at least a goal per game less than the Pens are when Miller is in net.  It’s hard to win games when your goalie is letting in more than you can score…

Final Thoughts:

The last time the Sabres were able to win against the Pens was December 29, 2009 at Buffalo. While Miller did start that game, it was Patrick Lalime that picked up the win, after Miller gave up 3 goals on 11 shots. In the six games since that win, the Sabres have been outscored 20-11 with one shutout against (Jhonas Enroth’s took the loss that night). Something obviously needs to change this season. I’d say it’s a good for the Sabres to not have to face the Pens with Crosby on Saturday, but the numbers say otherwise. We’ll find out on Saturday if an improved Sabres team can break the 6 game losing streak to the Pens.

In Tylers we trust.

You wouldn't like him when he's angry.

*In my GAPG (Goals Against Per Game) calculation I included the total number of goals that were scored by the Penguins and Sabres in a game where Ryan Miller started. Empty net goals were obviously not counted against Miller’s GAA and SV%.

**All spit stats were taken from Yahoo Sports. The remainder came from game recaps and official score sheets dating back to the 2005-2006 season, which are available on the Sabres’ website.

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