Ryan Miller hasn’t played often this season, but with starting goalie John Gibson and back-up Chad Johnson out with injuries he took full advantage of his opportunity. In a 5-2 win over the reigning Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals on Feb. 17, Miller chalked up a rare victory – at least for this season. What was special about this victory was that, with the win, Miller became the all-time NHL leader in wins (385) by a U.S.-born goaltender.
John Vanbiesbrouck had held the previous record of 384 wins. Ironically, Miller tied Vanbiesbrouck’s record on Dec. 2, against this same Capitals team. For Miller, as noted, the start was a rare one. Previous to this start, the 17-year veteran had been on the bench since Dec. 9 with a knee injury. In fact, he went more than two months between win 374 and win 375 because of the injury.
His record-setting start was only Miller’s eighth of the season, which isn’t many games for a goalie who had averaged more than 50 starts per season before he came to the Ducks last season. In fact, during the 2007-08 season, Miller set a Sabres’ franchise record by playing 76 games.
In his next start, two days after he broke Vanbiesbrouck’s record, Miller threw a shutout at the Minnesota Wild, stopping all 31 shots fired at him in a 4-0 win. It was Miller’s 44th career shutout. He is 6-2-1 this season, with a 2.39 GAA and a .929 save percentage.
Miller’s Career Records
Miller’s career record is 376 wins and 270 losses, in 749 games. First joining the Buffalo Sabres in the 2002-03 season, Miller has been a consistent goalie with the Sabres, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, and now the Ducks.
Miller, an East Lansing, Michgan, native, grew up with Vanbiesbrouck (born in Detroit) as his hero. As Miller noted about Vanbiesbrouck, “He was a fixture in the ’80s and ’90s, which was right when I was growing up and watching a lot of hockey.” He added that Vanbiesbrouck “was definitely a goalie I looked up to.”
Miller played for Michigan State from 1999-2002. He had a stellar collegiate record of 73-19-12 record with a 1.54 goals-against average in 106 career university games. In 2001, he won the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the nation’s top collegiate player – only the second goaltender to ever win the award. He almost repeated the next season, being a finalist in 2002 (the only other goalie to win the award was Robb Stauber in 1988. Other notable Hobey Blake winners include Jack Eichel in 2015 and Johnny Gaudreau in 2014).
Miller spent most of his NHL career with the Buffalo Sabres, and was one of the top goalies in the NHL during his time there. Miller won the 2010 Vezina Trophy with the Sabres. He also won a silver medal for the United States at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and was named most valuable player in hockey that Olympics. His save percentage of .946 and a GAA of 1.35 are both American Olympic records.
What Does Miller Think about His Record?
Miller, now 38, doesn’t believe he will hold the record for long. As Miller notes, “There are just too many U.S.-born goalies coming along right now. That’s exciting for me because growing up there were only a handful of guys who were able to push through who were Americans.” About his current teammate John Gibson, he added, “(Gibson) is certainly a candidate. He’s playing great hockey and putting good numbers up.”
Gibson, who is 25 years old, has 110 victories in 224 games over six seasons with the Ducks. He is currently on injured reserve because of upper-body injuries. The other young U.S.-born goalie with a good chance to beat Miller’s record is Connnor Hellebuyck, also 25 years old, who has 109 wins with the Winnipeg Jets in four seasons.
What’s Next for Miller?
It looks as if Miller will not remain with the Ducks much longer this season. Rumor has it that the Ducks are currently talking with the San Jose Sharks about trading the goalie prior to the trade deadline. Miller, in the final-year of a two-year $4 million contract, has given the Ducks a list of six teams he would accept a trade to. The Sharks are one of them. The Ducks are rumored to be receiving a third round pick for the record-setting goalie.
Likely, a trade to the Sharks would be temporary. If Miller plays next season, it will likely be back with the Ducks. His wife is Noureen DeWulf, an American actress who starred as Lacey in the television show Anger Management. Her acting career is one reason Miller chose the Ducks over other teams after he left the Canucks.