BUFFALO, N.Y. — How quickly Ryan Miller forgets.

Having led Buffalo to the playoffs for the first time in three years, Miller, the Sabres’ goaltender, politely apologized for being in no mood to assess what he’s accomplished this season.

Winning an Olympic silver medal and a franchise-record 41 games take a back seat for Miller as he turns his attention toward tonight, when Buffalo opens the NHL playoffs at home against the Boston Bruins.

“I’m not going to sit here and reflect. Sorry,” Miller said. “To start reminiscing now, it’s going to make for a short postseason. I don’t want to do it.”

Miller’s reluctance is another indication of the focus that’s allowed him to emerge as an elite goaltender this season. He’s become the unquestioned leader of a young team that’s proven it’s finally matured since the summer of 2007, when it lost Chris Drury and Daniel Briere to free agency.

Drury and Briere were the key components on the teams that reached the Eastern Conference finals in 2006 and ’07. This time Miller is the pivotal player.

“I feel when Ryan’s playing his best, we’re a very tough team to beat,” captain Craig Rivet said.

In being honored as the Olympic men’s hockey MVP, Miller went 5-1 for the U.S. at the Vancouver Games, losing the final to Canada on Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal.

Miller was second in the league in goals-against average (2.22) and save percentage (92.9).

The only one to better Miller’s numbers happens to be the goalie the Sabres will face — Tuukka Rask – though Rask appeared in 24 fewer games than Miller.

Rask’s emergence in supplanting Tim Thomas as the starter is the reason Boston reached the playoffs for a third straight season.

Rask went 22-12-5 and keyed the Bruins’ late surge by going 4-1-1 in his final six starts.

A year after winning the Eastern Conference regular-season title, the sixth-seeded Bruins enter the playoffs a much different team. They’ve adopted a defensive-minded approach after losing Marc Savard to a season-ending concussion March 7.

“We had some ups and downs, but I thought it made us stronger and we found a way to get to the playoffs,” Patrice Bergeron said. “We believe in ourselves. Even though some people were counting us out, I don’t think we were. That’s all that mattered.”

The Bruins had the edge on Buffalo, winning the season series 4-2, including an overtime and shootout win. All six games were close, four decided by a goal the other two by two goals.

“We’ve had success against them this year; that doesn’t mean we’re the favorites,” Bruins Coach Claude Julien said.

The Bruins are hampered by injuries. Aside from Savard, they’re minus defensemen Dennis Seidenberg (forearm) and Mark Stuart (pinkie).

Savard’s absence has hurt. Boston finished 29th in scoring.


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