Ryan Miller is back and we should take notice

Ryan Miller has been a lightning rod this season. The Lucic thing, the goalie “controversy,” his ongoing duel with the media,  trade rumors, and much of the fans ire continues to be directed towards him. My question is: Why?

Miller is back. And it’s more than his stats that are an indication of his return to being Ryan Miller: American Hero. I was able to attend both games vs. Dallas and Tampa and what I saw confirmed what I had thought after the win vs. New Jersey before the All-Star break, Miller has his swagger back.

However, despite stellar performances and the stats to go along with it, there are still the naysayers who want him traded, who yell “Miller sucks!” every time he gives up a goal. My response to them is simply to shut up. There is no reason to trade him, and there is no reason to start Enroth (who’s been pretty bad in his last few starts) except to rest Miller. Not that I’m saying Enroth is a bad goalie, he’ll be a starter in the future, but he’s not one yet.

But I digress.

There were several saves I saw Friday and Saturday night that he probably would’ve let in during the rough stretches in November, December, and January. The fact is though, he’s been making those saves. The saves that make the arena go insane, the saves that help the team stay in the game, and the saves that make RJ shout “MILERRRRRRRR! WHAT A SAVE!” He only got scored on once in Friday’s shootout, and pretty much all 4 goals he gave up in this weekend’s games were not his fault. There’s really no possible way Joe Schmoe Sports Fan can make the claim that Miller sucks. Whatever problems he had, he sorted them out.

My theory is that it was the concussion from the Lucic hit (2nd concussion in 8 months) and the injuries to the blue line were a big part of his slow start. I think he’s now fully recovered and beating the Bruins really helped him get over everything and get back in to form. It wasn’t his wife, people. Get over it. Concussions are serious injuries and you need to be fully focused as a goalie. It’s hard to focus on a little black puck in a crowd of ten guys when there are still little cartoon birdies flying around your head. I think the stretch games are proof enough that the hit was the source of Ryan’s ills.

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The fans need to let go of past games and stop ignoring great performances by our franchise goalie. He’s stated over and over his desire to stay and win in Buffalo. It would be foolish to throw him out on his ass and think Jhonas Enroth is the answer right now, because he’s not.

And, speaking of ignoring great performances, I think Miller breaking Hasek’s franchise record for wins has seemed like an afterthought. It’s a huge milestone that deserves much more credit and the organization and fans have dropped the ball as far as honoring him for it.

And yeah, you can argue about about shootouts vs. ties until you’re blue in the face. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter. As Greg Wyshinski over at Puck Daddy wrote about the Red Wings home win record, there are always different circumstances in different eras. Way…way back, teams played fewer games and never had to travel way out west. Up until the late 90′s, goalies basically strapped on pads that resembled pillows. Not to mention their playing style was radically different. It probably made it a hell of a lot easier to score.

Miller won his games under the circumstances. And, as our brave leader Joe pointed out to me, Dom had 70 ties. Let’s say he wins half of those in today’s NHL. So add 35 wins to his total. I guarantee Miller would still break the record, considering 35 wins is about a season’s worth for him. So shut up about adding asterisks and shootouts. Miller earned his wins, and deserves credit for the record.

Which is why I’m disappointed the organization didn’t honor him for it. I don’t know the details of why he didn’t get recognition. Miller is kind of a humble guy when it comes to his own accomplishments, maybe he declined recognition. However, I doubt that.

Miikka Kiprusoff got recognition from the Calgary Flames for earning his 300th career win. How many of those wins came in a shootout?

I’ll give you a hint: nobody cares!

Why? Because he earned those 300 wins. Much like Miller has earned his 237. He deserves recognition because of how many games he carried for the team.

The guy has given his all to this organization and gets treated like he killed a bunch of puppies. It’s really embarrassing. I’ve mentioned it before, but I almost got into a fight with a guy at a game when I defended Ryan Miller after he gave up a goal. Although I have been critical of him in games past, I believe in him.

Remember when the fans and media started to throw Dom under the bus, and eventually out of town? And then he won a Cup with Detroit? I don’t want that happening with Miller. I’m not saying praise him in whatever he does. Or to be afraid to criticize him after a bad goal or a bad performance. But give the guy credit where credit is deserved. He’s been playing well, he broke a franchise record, and has said time and time again that he wants to be here.

So how about we, as fans, think twice before we throw him out of town. His dedication to his position and this team are enough for me to want him around. He’s skilled, smart, and a good teammate. He’s dedicated to winning and he’s shown when his ability to focus is at 100%, he can be a game changer. Replacing him would be near impossible.

It’s been a roller coaster of a season for Miller, but there’s no reasonable argument for getting rid of him. Goaltending does matter. The Bruins rode their 6 million dollar man to the Stanley Cup last year. Lundqvist is leading the Rangers. Niemi and Fleury are big parts of contenders in San Jose and Pittsburgh. There’s a lot of things this team needs. Pushing away the franchise’s winningest goalie is not something the team needs to do.

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