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Buffalo Sabres Goaltender Ryan Miller’s Playing Style May Determine Starting Role for Team USA

January 3rd, 2014 at 11:16 AM
By Mike Matisz

While national teams are making the difficult decisions to make their final cuts for the 2014 Sochi Games, Team USA is working on naming their starting goaltender for the games.

Most feel that the goaltender who is playing the best should be the starter, but with the Olympic rinks being larger than NHL rinks, Team USA may lean more toward playing style than statistics to name their goaltender this time around. 

"On the big ice surface, I do think playing deeper helps," said Phoenix Coyotes goaltending coach Sean Burke, who played 158 games for Canada's national team. "But that doesn't mean a guy who is aggressive can't play on big ice."

'Canada vs. USA' photo (c) 2010, s.yume - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Since the ice surface is larger, playing at the top of the crease will mean more area to cover when going from side-to-side on potential scoring plays. Goaltenders who play deeper in the net may have a hard time cutting off angles one-on-one but when the play consists of multiple potential scorers, there is less area to cover laterally. 

"The guy I had on my list as No.1 (for Canada) was Mike Smith, and that was the reason, because of his deeper style of play," said Martin Biron, who retired from the New York Rangers this season. "I look at some goalies who performed well at World Junior on big ice or at Olympics on big ice, and vice versa, some of the goalies that did not perform well on the big ice, that's where the theory comes from."

Biron continued by citing his own personal experiences on the larger ice surface. 

"I played really well in Canada getting ready in training camp, and when I went over there, I had one exhibition game and I absolutely was terrible," Biron said. "I got pulled middle of the second period because I could not get comfortable with my angles, I couldn't read where guys were going to be, and it was really tough."

While some goaltenders are able to adjust to the difference in rink size, those who perform the best on the small rinks may not translate to larger ice surfaces. 

It will be up to Team USA to determine who handles the different sizes the best, but if the United States were to go with their hottest goaltender, Ryan Miller may be the one to get the nod again in the Olympics. 

Tags: Buffalo, Buffalo Sabres, Hockey, NHL

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