Ryan Miller’s case for Team USA

Ryan Miller in goal for Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Ryan Miller in goal for Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Later this evening the Buffalo Sabres will host the Los Angeles Kings in a clash between two potential Team USA goaltenders at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Jonathan Quick of the Kings is likely a lock to make the team, having won the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe two years ago, then following it up with another strong playoff performance in 2013. In very recent memory, the Kings’ star netminder has proved himself as a clutch goaltender.

Whether Ryan Miller embarks on another Olympic journey is a little more debatable. Things haven’t gone extremely well for 2010 silver medalist of late. That being said, despite playing on a non-playoff team for the last two NHL campaigns, and likely a third this season, Miller’s numbers are still impressive.

Of the three most recognized goaltender statistics, save percentage is the most reflective of a goalie’s performance. Wins and GAA (goals against average) provide insight, however, they are in many ways team stats. For a win to occur, more than goaltending is necessary. While a netminder can contribute to a win he can’t solely earn one without the help of his teammates. Good goalies on bad teams get less wins, plain and simple. As for goals against average – it’s a stat the measures how many goals a goalie allows per game. Goalies on good teams don’t give up as many goals and Miller isn’t on a good team. But, save percentage is a more direct measurement. So, how is Miller’s save percentage through two seasons of playing on a poor team? It’s pretty good.

In 2011-12 Ryan Miller’s save percentage was a respectable 0.916 ranking him 5th among NHL goaltenders on non-playoff teams who suited up for more than 50 games. More than 50 is important because it provides a big sample size.

In 2012-13 the Sabres were awful but Miller again held the fort as well he could. His 0.915 SV% placed him within 10 decimal points of every NHL goaltender not named Craig Anderson, Sergei Bobrovsky, Tuukka Rask, Cory Schneider, Henrik Lundqvist or Corey Crawford – only one of whom  (Lundqvist) played more games than Miller.

Miller was Team USA’s starting goaltender in 2010. He almost won gold too, losing a heartbreaker in overtime against Team Canada. His performance earned him tournament MVP honours.

The competition to play net for Team USA at Sochi 2014 is stiff. There are several great American goaltenders in the National Hockey League to choose from, including: Cory Schneider, Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick, Jimmy Howard, Craig Anderson and Tim Thomas. Only three can be selected from this esteemed group.

Team USA will announce their final roster on January 1st, 2014 at the Winter Classic in Michigan. Miller will likely be on the team, although it won’t be easy narrowing down the group to three. In Miller’s defence, something must be said for the experience the Sabres goaltender brings to the equation having backstopped his country to an overtime loss in the 2010 gold medal game. Whether he starts is an entirely different story.