If anyone can benefit from the Vancouver Canucks not doing a “tank job,” it’s the one guy conceivably most capable of thwarting such efforts: Ryan Miller, whose contract expires after this season.
It’s no secret that a goalie can make the difference between winning and losing many nights, and that was certainly the case on Friday; Miller willed the Canucks to a 4-2 win against the Calgary Flames, the team’s sixth consecutive victory. As of this moment, Vancouver is – shockingly – in the West’s final wild card spot.
The Flames generated more shots on goal in the third period (23) than Vancouver managed all game as Calgary ultimately generated a 46-13 edge. Miller had none of it, stopping 44 out of 46 shots.
Loui Eriksson didn’t really provide in-depth analysis above, but at least it shows that the Canucks are aware of how much this latest win hinged on Miller’s performance.
That’s fitting, too, because Miller’s future hinges on his work in 2016-17 overall.
At 36, his stature in the league is muted, yet one could also see serious potential as a backup or 1B-platoon-type goalie. If a contender like Tampa Bay or Pittsburgh loses a key goalie, maybe they scoop up Miller at a decent price, giving him a chance to extend his career while making a little more money?
Such a scenario is far easier to ponder if Miller keeps the Canucks in the playoff picture.
Now, this six-game winning streak is actually logically timed, even if Friday’s game is by no means repeatable.
The Canucks have played five of their last six games in Vancouver and nine of 11 overall at home since Dec. 16. If they were ever to go on an anti-tanking run, this would be the time to do it.
Now, we can debate the merits of piling up wins this late in the season all we want, but we can be certain that Miller has zero interest in losing games.
If he keeps this up, we might just get a real barometer regarding how much management truly wants to win vs. trying to get the best draft lottery odds possible.