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Talkin' hockey with Ryan Miller

by Dan Rosen

Ryan Miller is one of three goalies taking part in the Goalie Equipment Working Group starting in Toronto on June 11, 2008. Miller video
A day after the NHL and its Players’ Association announced the formation of the Goalie Equipment Working Group, Buffalo Sabres netminder Ryan Miller came strolling through the League’s New York City headquarters.

Miller is one of three goaltenders in the Group, including Martin Brodeur and Rick DiPietro. On June 11 the three goalies will be joined in Toronto by NHL general managers Doug Risebrough, Garth Snow, Jim Rutherford and Brett Hull, as well as Ottawa winger Dany Heatley and Los Angeles center Mike Cammalleri.

The Group is tasked with examining the configuration and dimensions of goaltender equipment with respect to safety and performance. Any suggested alterations to the rules governing goalie equipment will be forwarded to the Competition Committee.

With that in mind, had a chance to sit down with Miller for an exclusive interview Wednesday. We began discussing the June 11 summit in Toronto, but our conversation turned into playoff talk, specifically about the goalies.

Here is the transcript detailing Miller’s thoughts on a range of topics: On June 11 you are going in Toronto for that meeting on goaltender’s equipment with some skaters, some goalies and some GMs. Can you give us some thoughts on what will be addressed?

Ryan Miller: “I think there has been concern that there are areas of the equipment that haven’t been addressed as far as sizing. Coming out of the lockout they just addressed the obvious things, pad size and width, standard glove sizes and some little tweaks to the pants. There are now areas where they want to clean things up and have a better standard. There has been some nit-picking by goalies going against each other and pointing things out. Media hypes up certain guys looking for an advantage. I’m not going to say cheating because obviously their stuff is measured before it’s sent to them. There needs to be a fine line of what a guy’s personal preference in the way he wears something that is legal vs. cheating. Some guys sag their pants. Some guys wear them higher. Some guys wear their pads loose. Some guys like them tight. It’s all in how you play with it.” Is that a hard line to ride when you’re talking about safety? Couldn’t it change from one goalie to the next?

RM: “The best thing we can do is sit down and talk about it because, obviously, it’s been a concern. From my standpoint as a goalie I want to protect everybody and their right to wear a piece of equipment a certain way. Where it gets ridiculous is when guys probably shouldn’t be wearing something as big, something that is blatantly there just to take up space. That’s where you have to draw the hard line. I’m not looking to nit-pick or single anybody out, but if you have a standard that is well talked about and well thought out in place for everyone and regulated no one is going to be at a disadvantage.” Do you think any alterations will change how the position is played?

RM: “No, I don’t think it’s going to go that far. I don’t want it to go that far because goaltending has evolved. I know Marty Turco has talked about the way your knees hit the ice and how guys wear a piece inside the pads to block pucks. It’s the knee flap on the inside when you go down. But, you know, goaltending has evolved to butterfly and that way your knees are on the ice. They have to concede that it has evolved that way, guys play that way, and you need to have your knee protected in order to play that way. If you want your goaltender to play 70 games or more they can’t be risking injury or changing their style just because we want to see an increase in scoring. Goaltending is still a dynamic part of the game. We don’t want to make it so the goaltender is a scapegoat. We want to make it so the goaltender is respected, but we don’t want guys exploiting the rules. We just have to tailor them better so everyone is on a level playing field where it comes down to skill and thinking.” Now I wanted to ask you about a former teammate, (Flyers goalie) Marty Biron. He’s facing 34-35 shots per game. He’s been resilient. Did you know this was in him?

RM: “Yeah, that’s Marty’s personality. I think he’s better with that kind of play. When he gets lots of shots he gets on a role. He’s the kind of guy that can talk to a referee for a minute about a play, then line up and make a save. He’s a carefree person, but when he’s getting a lot of pucks he’s really focused. He can steal games.”

“From my standpoint as a goalie I want to protect everybody and their right to wear a piece of equipment a certain way." - Ryan Miller I guess it just takes an opportunity, right?

RM: “That’s the case with anybody who has made it at this level. I got my opportunity at the time when Marty was in Buffalo, but I took advantage of mine and I’m glad to see him get his. He is a great person. I had a lot of fun with him and learned a lot from him. It was never a dull moment with Marty. I think it’s great that he’s playing at a high level right now.” In regards to Marty, in Game 1 against Washington he had a tough loss when he gave up three goals in the third period. In Game 2 he comes back with a shutout. Is it harder to put the big win aside and focus on the next game, or is it harder to forget about the tough loss in the playoffs?

RM: “Either way you have to go out and play a completely separate game. Media may want to talk about momentum, but it really doesn’t exist unless you make it exist. You can go out and have the game of your life after playing the worst game of your life, or you can have a great game and follow it up with the worst. I don’t think there is any real connection. I can’t get in Marty’s head, but for me I just want to play a great game every night. I’m not looking for any vindication from the night before as my focus.” Now you look at guys like Chris Osgood and Evgeni Nabokov, who are facing about 23 shots per game. As a goalie do you almost want more than that?

RM: “I like to get in a rhythm, but when you look at some of the chances they’re getting they might not be as many but the other team is always going to get some Grade As. I was at some of the Detroit games and he faced a lot of perimeter chances, but late in the game he really had to make some saves. There will always be opportunities so sometimes it is easy to be in a rhythm, but these guys have to do it all mentally. They’re going to get chances against, they have to be ready. The fans always say, ‘Well he didn’t face that many shots.’ Well, let’s rank shots.” What is a guy like Marc-Andre Fleury thinking right now? The Penguins are a win away from going to the third round for the first time, and he’s a young goalie.

RM: “Win as soon as possible. Give no life to the other team. Last year we were up 2-0 on the Rangers and they came back. We were up 3-0 on Ottawa when we beat them two years ago, and they beat us in Game 4. You want to get it done. It goes from 3-0 to 3-1 and then it could be 3-2. They start to get some momentum, so you always want to get a series done as quickly as possible. It’s a race to four wins.” Still, is it sometimes difficult to lose a focus when you know that you still have so many outs?

RM: “You could, but what should drive you is the hardest game is closing a team out. They have nothing to lose. They have already been counted out. It’s tough. They’re going to be desperate and going for it, but you have to play within the system.” Look at a guy like Marty Turco, last year he had three shutouts and they lost the series. Now he’s playing well, and still I don’t think a lot of people are talking about him. Is he the underrated guy?

RM: “Marty is an interesting case. He has had a great career. I thought he has had great playoffs, but he has always had the stigma because he hasn’t advanced as far as many people thought his team should have. Honestly, looking back I never thought it was his fault. I thought he had strong series. Maybe one time against the Avalanche about four years ago he was a little … but every other series I thought he was strong. From knowing him, he’s a heck of a competitor and a good person. I didn’t think it was warranted putting a series loss on him when he was playing so well.”

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