The worst-kept secret on Team USA has been now made public. Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller
is the No. 1 goalie for these Olympics.
"I think he's played very well," Team USA coach Ron Wilson said. "He's our starting goalie. I don't think there are any issues there."
Wilson says he made the decision almost two weeks ago, reaching out to Miller by phone at halftime of the Super Bowl game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints.
Wilson looked at Miller's save percentage (.930) and his shutouts (5) and the fact that he had already registered 30 wins for the Sabres and he knew Miller had beaten out a struggling Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins and young Los Angeles Kings goalie Jon Quick.
Those two goalies will likely alternate as Miller's backup throughout the tournament. Barring a meltdown, Wilson plans to play Miller in every game.
"I told him you are the starting goalie and I just want you to know that so you don't have to worry about it this week that you have to put on a performance," Wilson said of the phone call during the Super Bowl. "Your play this year warrants that and you are the guy."
Actually, Wilson had little need to worry about Miller being rattled by the indecision hovering around the goaltending position on Team USA.
"He doesn't seem like much bothers him and that's pretty important for a goalie," said Anaheim's Ryan Whitney, one of Team USA's seven defensemen. "You don't want a goalie that is high-tense or anything like that. He's proven that what ever he is doing is working."
Miller certainly wasn't tense as he faced the media Monday, discussing his status as the No. 1. He regularly repeated how honored he was to be entrusted with the responsibility to lead America in the tournament. But, in the next breath, he would stress that it had to be business as usual.
"I always thought (starting in Olympics) was something that would be really fun to do," Miller said. "It's cool, but again, I'm going to sound like a broken record because it helps me, but it's just another hockey game and another opportunity to go out there and do something I enjoy doing."
Rarely in recent international history have the Americans gone with one goalie throughout a tournament. At the 2006 Olympics, all three American goalies got a shot at the job. In 2002, it was the same story as Mike Richter shared the workload with Tom Barrasso and Mike Dunham.
But Wilson believes that the supremely confident Miller is the man that can settle down a young -- and somewhat untested -- American team.
"It's really hard to play well and cohesively defensively in less than a week and your goalie is going to be called upon to bail you out in certain situations," Wilson said in explaining the importance of the goalie in a short tournament. "If you believe your goalie can handle 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s, you take a chance up the ice that can often result in better offensive chances. I think our players really trust Ryan."
The coach's assessment may well be an understatement if you listen to Whitney, the Anaheim defenseman.
"He's a guy that just bails everyone out," Whitney said. "He's been incredible this year; and the last couple of years. He's become a star in this League.
"Especially in a tournament like this; it's one game. You get a hot goalie and you never know what might happen. We have the right guy in net now."