Brian Burke said it before and can say it again right now, “I told you so. Ryan Miller is the best goalie in the tournament…”
WHAT!? Not Roberto Luongo with his opening game shutout against Norway?! But he is perfect! OK. Big Lou is perfect. One game played, one win, 1.0 save percentage and no goals against.
Ryan Miller, on the other hand, has played two games, has two wins, but ONLY a .923 save percentage and a 1.0 GAA.
The differences here are one glaring item, and one that is more subtle.
Ryan Miller has been the difference for Team USA for a good 20 minutes of both games played because the American skaters have yet to put up a 60-minute game. In Game 1, it was what many have characterized as coasting in the 3rd period where USA was outscored 1 – 0 and outshot 6 – 2 by the Swiss. Had the game been tied after 40 minutes, Team USA would be 1 – 1 right now versus 2 – 0.
And in Game 2 against Norway, USA let up in the second period where they only outshot Norway 8 – 7. After going up 3 – 0, they surrendered a goal to Marius Holtet and allowed the Norwegians to carry a measure of momentum into the dressing room after two periods of play. The lopsided-looking score did not appear until 14:19 of the 3rd period with Ryan Malone’s second goal of the tournament and Brian Rafalski’s two goals in 2:23 to close out the score 6 – 1.
Miller’s obvious difference in these two games and some streaky scoring by USA has them 2 – 0 with a +7 goal differential and leading Canada who had to go to a Shootout win against the Swiss for their second victory.
On a more subtle note, Team USA’s netminder was also the difference in Game 2 when he stepped up near the faceoff dots and made a (goalie) tape-to-tape pass to defenseman Jack Johnson who fed Ryan Malone for USA goal number four mid-way through the third period. In the process, he notched an assist and simultaneously made a leadership statement. That play was telling his team to get off their rear ends and play Hockey. They did, adding two more late goals in the game. And USA finished that game looking like a proper, upper tier team with a very high quality goalie between the pipes.
Miller's obvious plan and more subtle leadership make him more of a standout than Luongo's shutout. There also is no controversy at Team USA about who starts in goal come Sunday.
Make no mistake, Ryan Miller will have to show he is the man again come Sunday when Team Canada, now feeling the media and home-town crowd heat for extending to a Shootout with the Swiss, comes ready to play the American squad. Tune in a 7:30pm EST for the game. If Team USA wins, it will be because Brian Burke is still right…
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