Two periods of “clean” and “calm” goaltending have earned Ryan Miller the start for the Vancouver Canucks when they try to stave off elimination tonight against the Flames.
Miller replaced Eddie Lack Tuesday, stopping all 15 shots he faced in the 3-1 loss.
“He’s been in big games before, but the biggest thing is how he played in Calgary. I thought he looked really sharp,” Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said this morning.
“He just made some clean saves. They had some good chances. We were pressing, so we gave up some clear-cut chances, and I thought he was really clean on quite a few of his saves. And he looked calm, too.”
The risk is that Miller has only played five periods of hockey since getting hurt in February. The 34-year-old conceded yesterday that he was still recovering from the sprained knee he suffered on Long Island two months ago.
And certainly Lack has not been the reason Vancouver finds itself trailing the series 3-1. Only one of the three goals he surrendered in Game 4 — the third one, by Sam Bennett — could be categorized as bad.
Desjardins said it wasn’t an easy decision.
“Eddie’s played really great for us,” he said. “He did a great job down the stretch.”
But now it’s up to Miller, the free agent the Canucks signed to a three-year, $18 million contract this past summer.
“I think playoffs always comes down to goaltending,” said Desjardins. “If you get great goaltending, you always have a chance.”
Related: Baertschi to play Game 5; Burrows out for series
Their first-round series against the Calgary Flames is really slipping away, so perhaps it’s time for the Vancouver Canucks to turn to Ryan Miller.
They’re doing it for at least part of Game 4, as they pulled Eddie Lack after allowing three goals on just seven shots. Here’s the final goal allowed:
Again, this may be one of those situations where a team makes a goalie change as much to wake up the team at large as it is to respond to a netminder’s performance.
This situation would get a lot more interesting if the Canucks can back into this one and make this more than a time-killing relief appearance for Miller, though.
Though there was little doubt about who’d be Vancouver’s playoff starter, head coach Willie Dejardins cemented it on Wednesday by confirming Eddie Lack would be in goal for Game 1 against Calgary.
Lack, who took over for the injured Ryan Miller in late February, has never appeared in the postseason before. That pales in comparison to Miller, who has over 50 Stanley Cup playoff games on his resume, and that gap in experience has led to questions if Lack is on a short leash.
Of course, leash length is also dependent on Miller’s health.
He suffered a fairly significant knee injury and appears to have rushed back into action. In Saturday’s season finale — a 6-5 OT win over Edmonton — Miller got the start but looked rusty and, afterward, admitted he wasn’t entirely comfortable.
“My goal was to get back, get some kind of playing time, get myself into position where I could be an option and be effective if I’m called upon,” said Miller, per Metro News. “I didn’t really set anything too high for myself. I wanted to move well … and it wasn’t great early on but I think later on, it sort of came back.”