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Friday, December 27, 2013
Miller's crossing

By Craig Custance
ESPN The Magazine

Ryan Miller
Miller is a top candidate to be one of the three goalies chosen for Sochi.

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Jan. 6 Story of the Season issue. Subscribe today!

SABRES GOALIE RYAN MILLER is as skilled at deflecting distractions as he is shots. Amid his team's ghastly start and swirling trade rumors, Buffalo's veteran posted a save percentage (.921) second only to that of Tampa Bay's Ben Bishop among Americans through Dec. 16. On the back of that performance, Miller -- who led the U.S. to silver in Vancouver with one of the finest goaltending performances in Olympic history -- has re-emerged as a top candidate to be one of the three goalies in Sochi when the team is announced on Jan. 1. Not surprisingly, Miller, 33, didn't flinch when The Mag fired a few one-timers his way.


Craig Custance: You were voted Olympic MVP in 2010. How much should that factor into decisions about your role in Sochi?
Ryan Miller: I don't think you're owed anything. People tend to think your body of work is a big thing. The decision should be based on the way you're playing now mixed with that [legacy]. I would hope they take into consideration the way I handled myself in the hostile Canadian environment. In Sochi we have to play Russia, the host, in the second game. That's going to be a big one.

Custance: Following the gold medal game in Vancouver, you became a household name. What was that like?
Miller: More than 28 million people watched the last game. There's a lot of hype thrown around the goaltender. It's the Olympics. But it is all hype. You have to remind yourself of that.

Custance: What's the biggest change in your life since then?
Miller: I'm a very different person. I got married [to actress Noureen DeWulf]. I got a dog. I had a lot of expectations and hope thrown at me. I'm not comparing myself to President Obama -- I don't think this highly of myself -- but he was elected on the platform of hope and change and the promise that something different is going to happen. Then after four years it doesn't happen, and people are angry and frustrated. I came to Buffalo, we had a few playoff runs and there was a lot of hope. Then you go to the Olympics and get pumped up even higher. It feels like something is going to come from all of this, but you go through a couple of tough seasons. People are disappointed and frustrated. That doesn't change my job; it just explains the trade rumors and other stuff hovering around.

Custance: Did you do anything differently to prepare for another possible Olympic run?
Miller: I map everything out in my head. Where can I get my workouts in, my maintenance in, my full-body massage -- and still have time to walk the dog and hang out with my wife? It was something I planned 12 months out with my sports psychologist. "How's it going to feel? What's it going to be like? You're going to be the most prepared of anybody." I feel like I was a breath away from it in 2010. It almost worked.

Custance: How long have you worked with a sports psychologist?
Miller: Since the lockout in 2004-05. I haven't been shy about it. It's part of my skill development. Just like you need your team around you to accomplish your game plan, you have to have help mentally. You have to find the right trainers for your body, your game and your brain.

Custance: Was there a moment after Vancouver when you realized: I can't live up to these new expectations?
Miller: It was tough. But I was like, "Look in the mirror. You did it to yourself. This is what happens when people pay attention." I was in that position, and I want to be in that position again.

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