The year 2010 was a magical one for Olympic hockey throughout North America. Canada got to celebrate gold in their home country, but for American fans, 2010 was the year of Ryan Miller. The eventual Vezina winner led an underpowered American squad to a silver medal, but much of Team USA's success was thanks to their play in net. Miller became an American Sports Hero(tm) and still has the Team USA musk about him four years later.
However, according to the inside-access article posted by Scott Burnside of ESPN, it seems the braintrust behind the US roster believes that Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings is still penciled in to be the main man between the pipes, despite just coming back from injury ten days ago. For anyone who shares that view, we've got something to say to you.
Enough with the Quick talk. And it has nothing to do with his injury - it has everything to do with the fact that Ryan Miller has the best combination of experience, cool under pressure, and current rate of play. Among starting goaltenders with more than 20 games played, Miller has the fifth best save percentage. The fifth best total save percentage, on a team that's not only the worst in the NHL, they're gunning for the worst offensive season in NHL history.
Using the same criteria (+20 games played) Miller ranks seventh in the league in even strength SV%, and more impressively ranks fourth in the league in SV% while the Sabres are shorthanded. The powerhouse Olympic teams like Canada, Russia, and Sweden are certain to have very potent power plays, no? The dude has been glue all year for the Sabres, and helps bail out his teammates night after night.
H's also raising his game as we get closer to Sochi - Miller's save percentage numbers by month are .918, .917, .948, .939, and he allowed only 15 goals against in the entire month of December.
Just as importantly, Miller passes the eye test for anyone who's watched a Buffalo Sabres game this year. I would estimate that about 75% of our game recaps included some form of the phrase "Miller single-handedly kept the Sabres in this game" and his most recent effort included a save-of-the-year candidate. He's coming off the best ten-game stretch of his entire career with a .950 save percentage, and his best 10-game stretch since...before the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The man is as dialed in right now as any goalie I've seen in the past few years.
For his part, Quick hasn't been terrible, but he hasn't been anything special this season as he's been in the past. He's got a .909 save percentage overall and .921 at even strength, both numbers that are well behind Miller's marks of .928 and .931, respectively. He's also coming off of an injury that's seen him only play eight games in the past three months. Will he be really be in top form come February 9, the beginning of the Olympic break?
Finally, while Quick was excellent in his Stanley Cup run, Miller has the experience of an entire country's expectations on his shoulders - no small feat for such a mentally finicky position as goaltender.
Miller has the numbers, he's got the experience, and he's peaking at the right time - all the things you look for to help a team win a short but extremely difficult tournament. The "significant announcement" that USA Hockey is making this afternoon isn't about Miller, but it should be. Give the man the starting job already.
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