Miller the student prepares for a playoff test
WILMINGTON — Two months ago, as the underdog Americans prepared for the gold-medal showdown against Team Canada in the Olympics, there wasn’t a player more ready for the game than Ryan Miller.
“He prepared the same way for every game, whether it was Norway, Switzerland, or Canada,’’ said Tim Thomas, who was Miller’s backup goalie on the US team in Vancouver. “He’s an intense guy when he gets ready for the games. He has his routine. He mentally prepared just as hard for each game.
“Based on what I saw at the Olympics, he must do that all season long.’’
There are some goalies who prefer a carefree approach to each game. Ex-Bruin Manny Fernandez, who’d torture himself with the mental buildup to competition, marveled at how much fun Martin Brodeur had in high-pressure games.
Miller, who will be in the Sabres net when the Bruins begin postseason play against Buffalo tomorrow, is the anti-Brodeur, taking as much time to study opposing shooters as he does to prepare himself for every game. The Bruins will wait to see how rookie Tuukka Rask performs under playoff pressure, but they enter Round 1 knowing that the enemy goalie has thrived most in white-knuckle situations, with his thorough preparation a significant factor in his success.
“Although,’’ noted Thomas, “that’s where tiredness comes in. You put that much mental focus for that much time, there does come a point where it does become harder to do, because you’re just mentally worn out. Mentally and physically, because it takes physical energy to mentally prepare like that.’’
In 34 playoff appearances, Miller is 20-14 with a 2.40 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage. In the Olympics, he went 5-1 with a 1.35 GAA and a .946 save percentage.
This will be Rask’s first NHL playoff experience. He went 9-7 with a 2.21 GAA and a .930 save percentage in the AHL playoffs last season.
“Good as it’s going to get,’’ Ference said of his injury, which will require offseason surgery.
If Ference is cleared to play, the veteran defenseman would most likely replace Andrew Bodnarchuk, who dressed in the last five games.
“Possibility,’’ coach Claude Julien termed Ference’s Round 1 availability. “He’s feeling better. He’s looking good. But until he gets clearance from our doctors and medical staff, he’s only a possibility.’’
Mark Stuart (pinkie) and Marc Savard (post-concussion) are unlikely to play in this series, Julien said.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.