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Misconceptions about goaltenders: Ryan Miller part two

March 29, 2012

Goaltender is a normal job. Sure. How would you like it if at your job, every time you made the slightest mistake a little red light went on over your head and 18,000 people stood up and screamed at you? ~ Jaques Plante

What fans need to understand about Ryan Miller is that he plays the toughest position in the sport. You can’t ever really win as a goalie and you will always be over analyzed by fans and members of the media. The worst part of those who call Miller Mr. Softee and clamor for him to be traded is that they have no clue what they’re talking about.

There are a lot of fantastic goalie quotes out there. A few appear in these posts. But Miller’s quote during last year’s playoffs will always stick with me; “I’m not going to pay too much attention to anybody who is talking about my game right now. I really don’t care. I don’t need to listen to all of the B.S. that is out there from people who don’t know how to play goalie. I really don’t give an expletive.”

Easily the best quote ever uttered by a goalie. The reason it is so terrific is that it is spot on. Miller even expounded on that thought – in a way – in his interview with LeBrun when he said that he doesn’t pay attention to what many think because they don’t know what it’s like to be an NHL goalie. I’d add that most of these people don’t know what it’s like to be a goalie in general, let alone an NHL netminder. You may think it isn’t that big of a deal, but it is. I know that I have had more experience playing college club than guys who didn’t go further than travel or high school and I know damn well that NCAA and junior goaltenders have a far better grasp on the position than I. Make no mistake, goaltender is a physically and mentally demanding position that few truly understand.

That misunderstanding is likely what leads to so much of the contempt surrounding the rise and fall of any goalie, Miller in this case. Let’s include Jhonas Enroth in this discussion, too. After all, Enroth’s play last season and early this year was a major argument for making Miller expendable. Now you hear nary a whisper of the notion. Of course, I have removed myself from listening to WGR outside of play-by-play and postgame coverage.

Only a goalie can appreciate what a goalie goes through ~ Jaques Plante

Familiarity breeds contempt. There is no way around it. Thomas Vanek is lazy, Derek Roy sucks and Ryan Miller is overrated because Buffalo fans watch them on a nightly basis. The Sabres absolutely need to get Jonas Hiller because he is so much better than Miller. I challenge fans that make such grand assumptions to watch these players for 82 games, or at least for an extended period of time. You will find as many, or more, flaws in just about every player you wish for the Sabres to acquire to replace their tired, overpaid regulars.

All goalies fall into this category more often than not because they are always under the spotlight. Just look at Enroth. He was the second coming when he was making helmetless saves and keeping the playoff push alive. Now that he has a full season with the big club – and Lindy Ruff’s horrid goaltender management – there are likely fewer supporters for his cause. The same goes for Miller, he won the Vezina but hasn’t won a playoff series all by himself, and obviously he should be traded for Pat Kane or to LA so he can be with his wife.

Jhonas Enroth's recent backslide has been magnified by his light schedule and the same criticisms many have about his partner, Ryan Miller.

Aside from the silly theories that people have drawn, watching a goaltender on a nightly basis will only force you to see his flaws and grow accustomed to his strengths. Realizing that no goalie will get a shutout every night, nor will they make every incredibly impossible save will allow fans to remove their rose colored glasses and watch with a more realistic opinion of the position.

There is no position in sport as noble as goaltending ~ Vladislav Tretiak

No matter your point of view on goaltenders, understand that they’re typically in a no-win situation. Making great saves will cause fans to expect that to be common practice, allowing any goal (weak or expected) will draw the ire of everyone in the arena and watching on TV. Playing lights out will only cause more criticism when the player eventually regresses back to the mean. I’ve long accepted that most people have an unrealistic view of goaltending, and that is okay. What isn’t okay is that so many people think this unrealistic point of view is how all goaltenders should be evaluated.

Goaltender is probably the best postion in all of hockey. You get to wear cool equipment, you’re a pivotal part of every victory and only a goaltender can take over a game or series. In fact, there may not be a position in all of sports that can be so singularlty dominant as goaltending.

Goalies will never be viewed in the proper manner, the position doesn’t allow for such a level-headed approach. Perhaps just taking a step back, or toning things down will allow fans to truly realize what they’re watching on a nightly basis.

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