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Miller stays calm amid perfect U.S. storm

02/24/2010, 2:15pm EST
By Nick Zaccardi

Ryan Miller continues to carry the torch for Team USA the only way he knows how.

Quietly.

The No. 1 goaltender turned in a ho-hum shutout, collecting 19 saves as the U.S. topped Switzerland, 2-0, in Wednesday’s quarterfinals at Canada Hockey Place.

Miller moved to 4-0 in Vancouver with his first shutout and lowered his goals-against average to 1.25, second-best overall in the tournament.

Team USA's Ryan Miller greets teammates after the quarterfinal victory over Switzerland.
Check out photos from the game

Miller, who gained widespread acclaim for stopping 42-of-45 shots in Sunday’s upset of Canada, has also successfully deflected the distractions brought on by becoming an overnight Olympic star.

Perhaps the only loud thing about him is his goalie mask, which features Uncle Sam flexing a bicep and, fittingly, carrying the Olympic torch.

“[The attention] has been a little bit of a distraction, so I’ve been trying to temper myself,” Miller said. “I’m still the same person. I enjoy playing goaltender. It’s just people are a little more interested in me now.”

It’s not just the normal bellied sports reporters talking to Miller anymore. For one,American Idol host Ryan Seacrest came calling, and Miller granted the entertainment guru an interview for his radio show.

Miller plays in one of the smaller NHL markets in Buffalo, but he proved with his shutout that he can handle increased scrutiny.

“My teammates know how I can play,” Miller said. “The boys on my team believe in me, and I believe in them. It’s just a little bit more interest now, so we’re trying to deflect and keep things where they need to be moving forward because we have a lot of work ahead of us.”

His teammates didn’t need any more proof.

“We have about as much confidence in him as you can,” defenseman Erik Johnson said. “He’s probably the best goalie in the [NHL] or one of the best. He’s shown it this whole tournament. It’s such a privilege to play with him, and it’s such a privilege to watch him play.

“He’s been our pillar of strength this whole tournament. So hopefully he keeps it going.”

Against Switzerland Miller didn’t face the quantity of pucks that he did against the Canadians — he might never again in this tournament — but the Swiss brought quality scoring chances.

Especially in the third period as the U.S. tried to hold onto a 1-0 lead. That’s when Miller got a little luck.

A Swiss shot from the corner of Miller’s eye went past him and pinged off the inside of a post. Had it bounced inside the net rather than out and the Swiss tied the score, the complexion of the game would have changed drastically.

“A mistake was not an option tonight because [Swiss goalie] Jonas [Hiller] was on fire,” Miller said. “I just had that feeling that he wasn’t going to be making a mistake. It’s going to take a good bounce or a nice shot. It might have to be a 1-0 game, and it essentially it was a 1-0 game.”

Hiller turned in a Miller-like effort by making 42 saves on 43 U.S. attempts. He was battered all afternoon.

Conversely, Miller spent plenty of time on his own, watching his teammates on the attack.

“It was a different kind of game [than against Canada],” Miller said. “I wanted to get into a rhythm and a flow, and I wasn’t getting too many dump-ins to play. I wasn’t getting much happening around me.”

They were rare calm moments for Miller, considering the constant attention and requests for his time since Sunday.

He’s even getting recognized without his mask and jersey on in Vancouver. The jabs from the Canadian hockey fans have been respectful, Miller says, but the quiet star doesn’t offer much of a comeback to them.

“I’m usually walking 30 or 40 yards down the street,” he said.

And remaining focused.

Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Tag(s): 2010 - Vancouver, BC