A special concern of this installment of Olympic hockey is the goaltender situation of Team USA. Buffalo Sabres’ goalie Ryan Miller is the most notable absence from the Team USA roster. In his stead are such paradigms of mediocrity as Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders, Robert Esche of the Philadelphia Flyers and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s John Grahame. Just a mile down the Genesee from the River Campus, Miller punched his card many times for the Rochester Americans, leading them to the best record in the American Hockey League last year.

I’ll give the muckety-mucks of Team USA the benefit of the doubt – choosing the trio of masked men to protect the American goal was tough this year. Dependable names like John Vanbiesbrouck, Tom Barrasso and Mike Richter, the old guard of American goaltenders who had established themselves as a force in the National Hockey League, have long since retired. Trying to determine talent for their replacements must have been difficult. When Team USA managers were going through this process, Miller was injured, hurting his chances for making the team. However, he has excelled at the international level – he put forth good efforts for Team USA in many non-Olympic competitions – and received the prestigious Hobey Baker award in 2001, given to the best player in college hockey.

Ultimately though, Miller has doubtlessly proved himself the superior of the other three in NHL play. He has racked up a higher goals against average and has a flawless record against all three of them.

He also carries an advantage in terms of intangible factors. While the other three have a strong roster chalk-full of superstars on their NHL squads, Miller has a more modest cast of supporters in front of him. While I’m not trying to imply that Miller is solely carrying the Sabres to success, the fact of the matter is that he has a more meaningful role in NHL play than the three that were chosen. This experience can translate to success during the Olympics.

Analogous to Trent Dilfer’s time at the helm of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens or Kyle Orton’s role this past season for the Chicago Bears, their role on their NHL teams is pretty much limited to one main objective – “just don’t screw up.” These goalies don’t need to make any plays or come through the clutch for the team, but merely need to be a sentinent being capable of cognitive function for their team to win. Sure, they may make the occasional big save, but not in a competitive situation – their teammates are high-scoring phenoms who can run up the score on a regular basis.

Conversely, a key ingredient to many of the Sabres’ successes is each phase of the team – offense, defense, goaltending and special teams – doing their part to achieve victory. Miller, therefore, needs to play an active role on his NHL team – he will very often find himself needing to maintain a close lead by making crucial saves. More than once, he has met this challenge to dazzling effect.

This mentality is a prerequisite for a goalie in international competition. With the International Olympic Committee allowing professional hockey players to compete, Olympic national teams are more of an all-star roster best brought out for exhibition rather than a team-oriented squad capable of great success. During the competition, excellent individual talent can produce three or so goals per game for the American side. However, coming off of intense seasons in the NHL, the members of Team USA will not be able to practice enough – it won’t be as easy to develop cohesive defensive, power play and penalty killing units that can bolster that figure of three per game. Therefore, the goalie will need to work hard to preserve a tenuous lead to guarantee his team’s victory.

Team USA will be hurt without a goalie of Miller’s caliber. Expect great things out of this young player in both the NHL and international areas.

Scott can be reached at tscott@campustimes.org.

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Furries on UR campus?

A few months ago, as I did my daily walk to class through the tunnels to escape the February cold,…

An open letter to all members of any university community

I strongly oppose the proposed divestment resolution. This resolution is nothing more than another ugly manifestation of antisemitism at the University.