Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Miller: Technical Analysis


Are you getting tired of watching Ryan Miller allow weak goals between his arms or through the five-hole? Well upon studying the netminder, I’ve found two areas of weakness which are leading to the Buffalo Sabres netminder allowing weak goals that make you want to throw your TV out the window and burn your Miller jersey.

The last Sabres game I attended I sat behind the net and noticed two patterns from Miller’s style of play and both of them make him vulnerable for weak goals. When opponents are leading a rush towards him from one of the wings he does two things. First of all he moves himself right out of position causing him to lose his place between the posts and secondly he over commits to almost every rush, which makes it near impossible for him to get across the crease.

We’ll start with him losing his net off the wing. During tonight’s game watch him as opponents enter the Sabres end on the wing.

Watch how he shuffles (yes that’s the technical term), he shuffles himself right out of position to the point where he leaves 3/4 of the net open. By losing his position in the net, he doesn’t stay square to the puck and allows opponents to find holes through him. He doesn’t stay between the pipes, leaving him exposed for goals on the far side. Also, because he’s out of position when he moves laterally to the other side of the net, he’s not in position and pucks are able to squeak through the netminder. Miller needs to play a more sound game between the pipes.

He needs to make sure he doesn’t lose his crease and stay completely square to the puck, by slowly moving across the crease instead of trying to “beat the shooter” to the other side. When he moves too quickly, he exposes himself and thus pucks squeak through his arms. You get the sense when watching him play, that his angles are off because he shouldn’t be making saves where he is outside of his crease or on the goal line.

Miller’s first issue of losing his crease ties directly into his second issue of over committing to shooters. Have you noticed how lately Ryan Miller drops into the butterfly constantly? As soon as a player gets close enough to him he drops, leaving him a sitting duck and

Sep 22, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk (21) tries to control the puck as he goes around Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller (30) during the second period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 22, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk (21) tries to control the puck as he goes around Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller (30) during the second period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

completely out of position. With Miller down and out, all an opponent has to do is either skate around the sprawled out goalie or pass the puck and it will likely take a bounce right into an open net. If the opponent doesn’t immediately take the shot or the puck doesn’t hit Miller, he’s like a fish out of water. When you see Miller drop, immediately you get two things from his game: one it’s like he almost gives up on every play or two he doesn’t trust his instincts/speed so he needs to drop first. When he drops into the butterfly he not only becomes a sitting duck for players to skate around, he also becomes weak top shelf and as a result he’s getting beat high when he really shouldn’t be.

When you watch Ryan Miller play and see him over committing to shots and losing his net, you realize he’s become a very anxious and impatient goaltender. He’s trying to force his opponents to do things on his terms instead of waiting for the player to dictate the first move and he’s getting burned more often than not. Miller needs to take a deep breath and relax between the pipes instead of being so anxious, let the shooters dictate what happens and learn to read the play like he did in 2010. A netminder needs to know what’s coming next and where everyone is on the ice.  Miller doesn’t know what’s coming next- cross crease passes, and instead tries to stop the play before it’s even begun.

Want to know why Miller is letting in some pretty suspect goals? It’s because he’s become an anxious goaltender who over commits to shooters and losses his place in the net. If Ryan Miller is to get back on his game and backstop the Sabres, he’ll need to re-evaluate his game and learn to become more patient, allowing the play to develop.

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  • Denis MacDougall

    Perhaps if the media and the negative Nellie fans got off his back, he might be able to relax. Let’s face it, he has had to feel the pressure of carrying this team on his back. The defense let’s face it has been awful not to mention the lack of goal scoring. this team at all positions needs to step up and take some of the pressure off of the goaltenders.

    • Caitlin Campbell

      He has carried this team virtually his whole career and has done an amazing job. I’m not down on Miller- I’m one of his biggest fans, Just analysing his game as of late. Yup a full time turn around is needed… the goaltenders are not the issue.

  • Aaron Root

    Typically I enjoy reading your articles. Do not overlook this statement as I continue, because I am going to be harsh. This article had me near pulling my hair out.

    To start, unless you play or have played as a goaltender at a pro level, or are an established goal tending coach at that level I think it’s a bit of a stretch to criticize any NHL goalies game in such depth.

    Unless Ryan Miller has told you himself then I can’t see how you can know that he has been anxious and impatient on the ice. My perspective has always been that Ryan Miller is aggressive and likes to make his opponents make a decision. That is not the same as being anxious.

    Finally, I haven’t noticed this in any of your other posts and I realize it is just a blog, but you have several spelling and grammatical errors mainly with the use of commas. While I’m sure it isn’t intended your argument comes off as though your “studying” of Ryan Miller is one game you saw live, and your introduction and the start of the second paragraph are repetitive.

    I understand that I don’t have the position to criticize, especially your writing, but this is hardly a technical analysis and appears to be an attempt to create a story out of nothing or to dig up trouble and controversy. If this is the case then I guess you have succeeded.

    • Caitlin Campbell

      Thank you very much for reading my work. Sorry that you got a bad impression from this article- as to the spelling mistakes my bad a slight over sight.

      I have played as a goaltender at fairly high levels and do a bit of goaltending coaching. Obviously it isn’t my place to play arm-chair goalie coach or scout while looking at Miller, but I thought I’d offer up what I have seen from watching him.

      That’s fair enough, perhaps I saw his agressive nature as being anxious, but I still think he’s reacting a bit odd to rushes like he is anxious.

      My goal for this article was to stir up a debate about the netminder and provide an analysis.