Ryan Miller

Don’t like the Ryan Miller signing, Canucks fans? Consider the 2011-12 Leafs


For a good example of the scenario that Canucks general manager Jim Benning wanted to avoid next season, consider the 2011-12 Toronto Maple Leafs.

That was the Leafs team that went into the season with James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson as their two goalies, despite the pair having combined for just 95 starts in NHL.

It did not go well for the Leafs, who, like the Canucks, play in a high-pressure Canadian market that can be particularly hard on goalies. Reimer, after an excellent 2010-11 rookie campaign that gave management confidence he could do it again, suffered a head injury in October and his game remained off all season. Meanwhile, Gustavsson mostly struggled when called upon, while Ben Scrivens and Jussi Rynnas weren’t any better.

The Leafs finished 12 points out of the playoffs and with the second-lowest save percentage in the league (.898). And while the experience didn’t completely ruin Reimer, it still gets referenced to this day and contributed in part to Toronto’s acquisition of Jonathan Bernier, who’s since taken over as the starter. The future for Reimer as a Leaf remains very much up in the air.

The Canucks could have gone into the 2014-15 season with a similar goalie tandem to that Leafs team. They could’ve gone with Eddie Lack, who impressed as a rookie in 2013-14, as the starter. They could’ve had Jacob Markstrom as the back-up. Combined, those two have 78 career NHL starts.

And hey, it might’ve worked out great. Goaltending is an unpredictable position. Teams don’t necessarily need big-money goalies to be successful. Lack and Markstrom have a lot of potential, too.

But instead of rolling the dice on youth and inexperience, Benning signed veteran Ryan Miller to a three-year, $18 million contract.

“He’s going to give our team confidence,” said Benning. “I think goaltending is the most important position on the team.”

The Miller signing was also clear evidence that the objective in Vancouver is to make the playoffs. It’s not to enter the Connor McDavid sweepstakes.

Said president of hockey operations Trevor Linden, to The Province: “We can’t have Daniel [Sedin] and Henrik [Sedin], Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins, all these veterans, and not give them every chance they need to win. As much as we felt Lack made great steps last year, Jim believes goaltending is the most important position in the game. He needed to know every night we had a chance to win and we’re going to be good in that position. That’s the foundation of your team. Nothing destroys confidence faster if you struggle at that position. We weren’t willing to risk that, and the three-year term gave us some flexibility.”

As poorly as Miller performed during his short stint in St. Louis, the 34-year-old was remarkably consistent during his many years with the Buffalo Sabres. In fact, from 2008-09 to 2013-14, his save percentage never finished below .915.

And at least publicly, Lack has been on board with the Miller signing.

“Ryan has been a great goalie in the league for a long time,” he told NHL.com, “and I’m going to try to learn from him.”

Sharks finally solve Gibson in OT to defeat rival Ducks

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Talk about perfect timing.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored his first goal of the season on Tuesday, doing so in overtime to lift the San Jose Sharks past the goaltending of John Gibson in a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

Facing off against their California rivals for the first time this season, the Sharks dominated puck possession and on the shot clock. Had it not been for the play of Gibson, this one could’ve been a lopsided win for San Jose.

Gibson replaced Jonathan Bernier to begin the second period. Bernier left the game with an upper-body injury.

In relief, Gibson made 24 saves on 25 shots. Vlasic was the only San Jose player to get the puck past him, but not before the Ducks managed to steal a single point.

The Ducks recorded the single point, but did so faced with a short-handed lineup as the game continued. Not only did Bernier leave the game, but so, too, did Ryan Getzlaf, who didn’t play a shift in the third period.

He left with an upper-body injury, as per the Ducks, who at the time listed his return as questionable.

Elliott backstops Flames to victory in his return to St. Louis

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 24: Matt Stajan #18 and Lance Bouma #17 of the Calgary Flames congratulate Brian Elliott #1 after a shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on October 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Flames defeated the Blachawks 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

So, it seems Jake Allen was onto something.

The St. Louis Blues goalie noted a few days ago that Calgary Flames fans shouldn’t be worried about Brian Elliott despite his early-season struggles.

Well, Elliott has since put together strong performances in back-to-back games against Central Division opponents from Chicago and then St. Louis.

After earning a shootout win over the Blackhawks on Monday, Elliott was put back in the Calgary net to finish off the back-to-back road set.

Facing his former team, Elliott made 23 saves on 24 shots and the Flames recorded a 4-1 victory. It was a special return to St. Louis for Elliott, who spent five seasons with the Blues.

“I saw that on the schedule from a while ago in the summer,” Elliott told NHL.com. “You want to come back here. I had so much fun playing in front of these fans in this building and wanted to do it again even though it was another team. The guys did a heck of a job in front of me to get that win for me.”

Not a bad trip for the Flames, with a maximum four points against two teams considered to be contenders in the Western Conference.

“I thought we were good in front of him, too,” Flames coach Glen Gulutzan told the Calgary Herald. “I thought we kept a lot of the stuff to the outside, but he made some big saves, especially at the end, when we knew their push was coming.

“I thought that was when he was his best. And that’s what you need — we put ourselves in position to win and then he carried us through.”

Bernier (upper-body injury) gives way to Gibson in Ducks net

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 01:  Goaltender Jonathan Bernier #1 of the Anaheim Ducks during the preseason NHL game against Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Ducks 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson began Tuesday’s game on the bench, but was forced into action to begin the second period against the San Jose Sharks.

Jonathan Bernier, who got the start, left the game with an upper-body injury and was doubtful to return, the Ducks stated on Twitter.

Bernier has played in only one other game for Anaheim so far, making 42 saves on 45 shots in a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 15.

‘Dig in there with the rest of the guys,’ says Babcock after leaving Andersen in against Bolts

OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 12: In his first game as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs Frederik Andersen #31 puts his mask on against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on October 12, 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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Frederik Andersen‘s difficult start to the season continues.

After an interesting exchange when questioned about his goaltender prior to Tuesday’s game against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning and some guy named Steven Stamkos, Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock was once again forced to answer inquiries about the play of Andersen, who allowed seven goals on just 24 shots.

Andersen stayed in the crease for the entire game, as the Leafs lost 7-3. He certainly didn’t get much help in the defensive end from his teammates in front of him.

Stamkos started the scoring for Tampa Bay, and continued it with a rocket one-timer past Andersen, before finishing with a four-point night.

But in Toronto, the conversation about the amazing play of rookies like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner seems to have shifted to the play of their goalie, acquired in a blockbuster deal with Anaheim, in which Toronto parted ways with a first- and second-round pick to make it happen. The Leafs then signed him to a five-year, $25 million deal.

Playing on a new team in a hockey-crazed market has likely been an adjustment. His season also started with an injury in Olympic qualifying.

Following the loss Tuesday, Babcock explained his reasoning for leaving Andersen in net for all seven Tampa Bay goals, two of which came late in the third period.

“I want him to play. He’s my guy. I want him to play,” said Babcock, as per Jonas Siegel of The Canadian Press. “So I could pull him and then say, ‘Okay I showed you!’ But what did I show him? To me, dig in there with the rest of the guys, make the next save and give us a chance to come back and win the game. You can’t do that sitting on the bench.”

The Maple Leafs face the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Florida’s goalie Roberto Luongo knows all-too-well about the pressures that come with playing the position in a Canadian market.

It is early in Andersen’s Toronto tenure.

But Babcock will likely be facing a similar line of questioning until his goalie turns it around.