As they continue to battle in the Eastern Conference Final of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, goaltenders Ray Emery and Ryan Miller know each other far beyond their Northeast Division battles in the National Hockey League.
The two have a history dating back to their American Hockey League days, which include 13 regular-season appearances against each other as well as a match-up in the 2004 Pepsi AHL All-Star Classic in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Emery began his professional career playing for the Ottawa Senators primary affiliate, the Binghamton Senators, while Miller likewise developed his skills with the Sabres’ affiliate in Rochester, soon becoming the Americans’ top goaltender.
Head-to-head, the advantage went to Emery, who was 6-4-3 with a 2.87 GAA and .905 save percentage against Miller, and even earned the win for the Canadian AHL All-Stars in 2004 with 22 saves.
Individually, their AHL careers paved the way for their current success in the NHL.
At age 22 and fresh off a stand-out career at Michigan State, Miller posted a 23-18-5 record and 2.34 GAA with the Amerks in 2002-03, while also appearing in 15 games for Buffalo. Miller then appeared in 60 games with Rochester in 2003-04, going 27-25-7 with a 2.21 GAA and leading Rochester to the Western Conference Final of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
The 20-year-old Emery emerged from the Ontario Hockey League with Binghamton in 2002-03, going 27-17-6 in his rookie campaign, finishing second in the AHL in wins and leading the B-Sens to the AHL’s Eastern Conference Final.
He also earned his first trip to the AHL All-Star Classic, where he shut out PlanetUSA, stopping all nine shots in his one period of work to earn the win for the Canadian All-Stars. Emery would earn his second straight appearance in the All-Star Classic in 2003-04, when he posted a 21-23-7 record and a 2.47 GAA with the B-Sens.
In 2004-05, the two netminders continued to develop their skills in the AHL during the NHL lockout.
Emery appeared in 51 games with Binghamton and earned a then-career-high 28 wins, going 28-18-5 record playing alongside current Ottawa stars Jason Spezza, Anton Volchenkov, Chris Kelly and Antoine Vermette.
Miller won a league-high 41 games, becoming the first AHL goaltender with 40 wins since Gerry Cheevers in 1964-65, while posting eight shutouts to go with his 41-17-4 record. He also made his second straight AHL All-Star Classic appearance and took home the Baz Bastien Award as the AHL’s outstanding goaltender.
When all is said and done, Miller holds a slight edge over Emery, boasting a 92-61-16 record with a 2.34 GAA and .916 save percentage in 172 games in the American Hockey League, while Emery’s numbers aren’t too far off, going 76-58-18, with a 2.51 GAA and .912 save percentage in 18 fewer games (154).
Given their history, career numbers and success in the AHL, it is no wonder that they are among the four goaltenders remaining in the NHL Playoffs, and as fate would put it, stand in each other’s way for a chance to capture Lord Stanley’s Cup.