SABRES READY FOR SOCHI
Miller, Enroth, Tallinder, Girgensons and Nolan vie for Olympic gold
Ryan Miller is seeking redemption.
Miller posted a .946 save percentage and a 1.35 goals against average at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, backstopping the United States to a silver-medal performance. He was named both the most valuable player of the tournament and outstanding goaltender.
However, the Buffalo Sabres goalie said he still looks back at how the tournament ended and wonders if he could have done anything to produce a different result. Sidney Crosby scored on him 7:40 into overtime to give Canada the gold medal.
“Looking back on that tournament, I feel like my game’s changed and the game of hockey’s changed a little bit and evolved,” he said before he left for Sochi, where the 2012 Games are being held. “I see things where, ‘Man, I could’ve done something different, could’ve been better in that situation, could’ve been a little more settled and composed.’
“I’m just going to try and bring that kind of game and hopefully I’ve been working up to [it] for awhile. Hopefully that’s the type of game that comes out of me when I’m over there.”
He’s eager to get back between the pipes and help his country stand at the top of the podium.
“You have to lose a game to get the silver and you’re a breath away from gold. It can be a hard award. It’s second place,” he said. “In this League, you don’t really get that. There’s that feeling that it is what it is. It’s second. It is a great tournament but you want to be first and that’s what drives you.”
The men’s Olympic ice hockey tournament begins Wednesday and several members of the Sabres arrived in Sochi on Monday, ready to compete.
Michael Gilbert, Buffalo’s Vice President of Public and Community Relations, is also in Sochi. He’s working with Team USA’s PR department during the Games. For Olympic updates and photos from a unique perspective, be sure to follow him on Twitter.
Miller arrived in Sochi not sure what his role on the team would be, whether as a starter or as a backup to Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings.
“I’m just preparing as I’m going to play,” he said. “That way I’m ready no matter what.”
The Sabres are one of three teams sending their goaltending tandem to the Olympics.
Enroth was Team Sweden’s starting goaltender when the country won gold at the World Championships in May, but will be behind New York Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist on the Olympic depth chart.
Enroth and Tallinder, teammates on that gold medal team, hope to recapture some of that magic in Sochi.
It may be Tallinder’s last Olympic Games. He played for Team Sweden in Vancouver in 2010 and is excited about the opportunity to once again be surrounded by the planet’s most talented players.
“It’s just fun to get over there and try to feel the spirit over there with the Olympics,” he said. “It’s going to be fun. You’re going to play with world-class players, both with and against.”Since he’s been with the Sabres, Nolan has stressed to his players the importance of giving a complete effort and competing hard every shift. It’s a message he’s also been delivering to Team Latvia as they prepare for the Olympics. Nolan was hired as Latvia’s coach in 2011.
“I’m a strong believer in the ordinary guy can do extraordinary things at the right moment. We’ve worked on it for the last two-and-a-half years in Latvia,” he said. “…Belief is a wonderful thing, but you have to work at it. They’re a hard-working team and now they’re starting to believe. That’s a deadly combination once in awhile.”
Girgensons, 20, will play in his first Olympic Games.
The team features some former NHL players like Sandis Ozolinsh and Kaspars Daugavins. With his NHL experience, Girgensons could be looked to as a leader on the team, but to him, the sum of the team’s parts is what matters most.
“In tournaments like this, it’s not really about leaders,” he said. “It’s about every individual working as hard as they can and in a little time, coming together as a team.”
While working with the national team, Nolan has picked up some Latvian along the way. He’s also been able to draw upon his experiences as a member of the First Nations in Canada in how he interacts with the Latvian team.
“I love saying ‘How much?’ The words you learn, I think languages are really important,” he said “Our language as a First Nations group was kind of taken away from us at one point, but we maintained. To hear the Latvian language, it’s a wonderful language so I learned as much as I could in a very short time.”
Latvia was a free country in 1918 but was then subjected to foreign rule for half a century. The country declared its independence once again in 1991.
Under Nolan’s guidance, Team Latvia maintained its status in the A Pool and defeated the Russian national “B” team on its way to earning an Olympic berth. Nolan hopes to continue making progress in this tournament.
“We were right there with them,” he said. “I’m not saying we’re as good as Russia, but I’m a strong believer in belief and if you work hard and you do the right things at the right time – look at 1980.”