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article imageMindful Canuck Ryan Miller ready: 'Feels good to be in the fight'

By Marcus Hondro     Apr 25, 2015 in Sports
It's hardly an adjective you often apply to athletes, at least it's not among the first that come to mind, but for Vancouver Canuck goalie Ryan Miller 'cerebral' works. That attribute was on fully display Friday when he spoke to media after practice.
Miller's time in Vancouver
He spoke extensively to the cameras and scribes before the Canucks headed back to Calgary for Game 6 in their opening round match-up. Down 3-2 isn't the most desired situation to be in but it's obviously better than being down 3-1 and Miller stopping 20 of 21 shots under pressure in Thursday's 2-1 win is a big reason they're still in it.
He is the epitome of calm on the ice - his 55 playoff games and one Olympic silver medal help - and the same off of it. The 34-year-old is analytical about hockey, he's about protecting the net, not just making a save, and analytical about life, too. Further, he's a proven winner both on-ice and off.
In his first season as a Canuck his teammates loved the energy he brought to the dressing room and onto the ice. He's that calming influence hockey teams need from its leaders and when it comes from a goalie it's extra special. "His emotions are very calm," captain Henrik Sedin said. "And he brings that to the locker room."
His relaxed demeanor doesn't mean he can't rise to the occasion emotionally in big games. He knows what he has to do and being calm doesn't mean he sits back and waits for the game. When necessary, he goes out and gets it, risk is not something he backs away from.
"You have to put yourself out there and take risks in life to do anything," he said. "You risk taking criticism, you risk a lot of different things, your reputation, but you have to have a willingness to do it. Any chance you get at this time of year, you have to just embrace it and put yourself out there and give it your best."
Getting back in the net
Taking over from Eddie Lack, his approach to coming off a six-week layoff due to a knee injury worked, and it involved his mind seemingly as much as his body. That mental acumen makes him forever a good interview, supplying long, thoughtful quotes that are a little off the beaten hockey-quote path.
"It's an odd situation for me not to have the flow and timing," he said about getting back into the net at this late juncture in the year. "You generally get this deep into the season and you have a lot of games under your belt. I am just trying to take the approach it's all about the mentality at this point.
"It's not about timing. It's not about the physical side of things. It's all about mentally 'can I get into the fight' and 'how long can I stay there?'"
That last quote, the "can I get into the fight and how long can I stay there" is indicative of his exalted use of language. Goalies in the NHL, in all-levels of hockey, tend to be thinkers, amateur philosophers, and none more than the American, who is undefeated in regulation games in Olympic play over two tournaments (2010 and 2014).
His one defeat in overtime in Olympic play came in the 2010 gold medal game at Rogers Arena in Vancouver and is one Miller loss the fans he now plays for were happy to see. But naturally for the rest of this series they're hoping there are no more Miller losses.
Ryan Miller: Likes Calgary's fans
Fans are a subject that Miller spoke about Friday. Calgary's fans. Intimidated by the noise in the Saddledome? Not at all. He likes it, feeds off it. He even likes the fact that the Calgary fans will be hoping he screws up. He speaks as if he and those Flames fans are brethren, thanks to their having one thing in common - a love of hockey.
"It's about enjoying the moment," he said. "It's pretty cool to get that many people together and that excited about hockey to the point they really want you to mess up. They've got a ton of red jerseys and you have to sit back and appreciate that people love hockey that much and you are the one out there who gets to play the game.
"Just try and stick with that respect for the game and also the mentality," he added. "For me it's just about entering the fight and seeing how long I can stay in it."
Here's something about Miller staying in it longer, a bit of odd trivia that took some thinking: This season, Miller recorded 6 shutouts and his first as a Canuck gave him 30 for his career, matching his jersey number. He now sits, after beating Calgary Thursday night, with 28 career NHL playoff wins and needs just two more to match that jersey number. It just so happens two more playoff victories will send his team into the next round.
Uncovering that esoteric stat may not be using the mind as adroitly as Miller, but it's the best we can do on short notice. The question that comes to mind though is - do you think he'll get those wins? Better think twice before saying he won't.
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