Ducks’ Ryan Miller upset about giving up shootout winner to Kings’ Anze Kopitar
LOS ANGELES — Ducks goaltender Ryan Miller was upset with himself Saturday. He said he should have known better. He’d seen that move before and should have been ready for it when Kings center Anze Kopitar tried in the second round of a shootout at Staples Center.
Kopitar scored the only goal in the shootout with a deft sleight of hand move that surprised Miller and the Kings edged the Ducks 4-3. Kopitar skated toward the net from the red line and then pulled the puck around Miller with his long reach as he skated toward the left goal post.
“He did it in the other direction two years ago,” Miller said. “It’s not impossible. I should know better. I didn’t want him to get ahead of me on the blocker side. The last three or four shootouts he’s had he shot, so obviously he changed it up. I probably should have set up better.”
Miller doesn’t maintain a physical book on the tendencies of opposing shooters, but he keeps it all in his head. He watches games, as most NHL players do, and files away what he sees and how it worked or didn’t work. His memory is impeccable.
“I just kind of know what’s going on,” he said. “I could probably tell you my whole career, honestly. Probably ever guy’s tendency I’ve seen more than once is probably something I can tell you. But it didn’t work the right way tonight.”
In the end, the Ducks were probably fortunate to have been in a shootout Saturday. Miller was superb during the five-minute overtime period, making four saves, including a point-blank denial of Kopitar, to keep the Ducks and Kings deadlocked at 3-3.
In the shootout, Kopitar was the only one to beat Miller, after Kyle Clifford (power play), Jeff Carter and Carl Grundstrom scored in regulation. Miller made 27 saves in regulation and overtime and was especially sharp in the first two periods, when the Ducks were outshot and outplayed.
Miller rebounded from a shaky performance in his last start, when he saved only 18 of 24 shots in the Ducks’ 6-1 loss March 14 to the Arizona Coyotes. Saturday’s start could be his second-to-last of the season, and perhaps in the 38-year-old’s career.
The Ducks have one more set of games on consecutive nights, when they play the Calgary Flames next Friday and the Edmonton Oilers next Saturday, and they’ll need Miller to spell John Gibson in one of those games. Miller also could start Tuesday against the Vancouver Canucks.
After all, he played three seasons with the Canucks before signing a two-year, $4-million contract July 1, 2017 to join the Ducks as a free agent. The 38-year-old is eligible to become a free agent again July 1, and he could re-sign or he could retire after a Hall of Fame-caliber career.
Although 2018-19 has been forgettable in almost every regard, it also was the season Miller passed John Vanbiesbrouck and became the all-time leader in victories by a United States-born goalie with 377. He is 7-6-2 in 18 appearances, his season shortened by a sprained knee.
Like his teammates, he’s been encouraged by the Ducks’ play in the last month or so, or since General Manager Bob Murray fired Randy Carlyle and assumed the coaching duties himself Feb. 10. The Ducks avoided playoff elimination Saturday by gaining one point with their shootout loss.
“There’s been better stretches of hockey,” Miller said. “The system has been better. For whatever reason, it wasn’t there. When a coach gets fired, it’s embarrassing. It’s on the players to play good hockey. Coaches can only tell you what to do, no matter what the situation.
“I thought for the most part, Bob has handled it pretty well. He’s going to be on the bench. Every game is going to be a tryout. Show me what you’ve got. There’s been guys playing better hockey and stepping up, so it’s been good.”
Author: Elliott Teaford