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Ryan Miller, playoff bust for St. Louis Blues

Greg Wyshynski
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ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 17: Ryan Miller #39 of the St. Louis Blues gives up a goal to Johnny Oduya #27 of the Chicago Blackhawks in Game One of the First Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scottrade Center on April 17, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Mark Buckner/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s not Ryan Miller’s fault that the St. Louis Blues went 3-7-0 down the stretch, lost six in a row and tumbled into a first-round series with the Chicago Blackhawks rather than one against the Minnesota Wild. No other team was hit with so many injuries so late in the season. The love child of Tuukka Rask and Henrik Lundqvist couldn’t have shouldered that burden. (And what a lovely child it would be.)

But then the Blues got healthier. They began their series with consecutive, heart-stopping wins on home ice. Miller started slowly in the first game, but ended up making 39 saves on 42 shots in triple-OT. He wasn’t great in Game 2 either, but skated away with a win. He stopped 23 of 24 shots in that Game 3 duel with Corey Crawford, but lost.

Then the wheels fell off. He posted a putrid .868 save percentage in Games 3-6, including that five-goal clunker in the elimination game for the Blues.

He was brought into St. Louis for one reason: To not have a Blues goalie be a liability in the postseason, and because he’s Ryan Miller, to be a difference maker.

He was outplayed by Crawford and couldn’t come through with a win in two critical mid-series games.

Suddenly, a deadline coup is reframed as a gamble that lost.

“We didn’t get it done,” Miller lamented after Game 6. “We got off to a good start, and didn’t capitalize.”

He had the best view of anyone of the last month and a half, and the way the team in front of him was slowly slipping into a spiral of defeat. “We just didn’t get onto … weren’t playing the right way overall … maybe caught up to us a little it,” he said.

The same goes for Miller, who allowed fewer than three goals in a game just twice from March 19th through the Blues’ elimination. Like the team in front of him, he wasn’t consistent and wasn’t playing his best hockey entering the postseason. His .899 even strength save percentage ranked him 12th for goalies with at least three appearances.  

In six games last postseason, Brian Elliott posted a .925 EV save percentage.

You know, for comparison’s sake.

It’s yet another playoff defeat for Miller, who hasn’t won a Stanley Cup round since 2007 and posted his worst save percentage (.897) in his postseason history.

So what does the future hold for Ryan Miller and the Blues?

From Dan Rosen of NHL.com:

Miller said contract talks with the Blues were "not very serious" before the playoffs began, but now it's fair to wonder if the Blues even want to resume negotiations at all based off of the series against Chicago and the fact that they have Jake Allen, who was named the most outstanding goalie in the American Hockey League this season, waiting in the wings.

"We're through with the hockey part now, and we'll have to see where we're at, see how they feel about me," Miller said. "I definitely like St. Louis. Like the guys, like the team, but we'll see what they feel about the playoffs."

From Nick Cotsonika of Yahoo:

Miller left open the possibility of staying: “I definitely like St. Louis, like the guys, like the team.” But he added: “We’ll see what they feel about the playoffs.” And it’s hard to see the Blues bringing him back. That 2016 third-rounder becomes a first-rounder if they re-sign him before the draft. Do they want to give up even more for him after this, especially when he turns 34 this summer? It’s hard to predict who will sign Miller now, frankly.

From St. Louis Game Time:

People may think Ryan Miller LOOKS like a great goaltender. Unfortunately, he doesn't FUNCTION like a great goaltender. Miller has an economy of motion. He looks calm compared to other goalies. In his case, calm and composed doesn't keep the puck out of the net.

Given the gap in shot differentials between the Blues and the teams above them, Miller would have to be elite level (0.930 – 0.931) just to bring the odds of the Blues winning a series up to 50:50. Miller just isn't that good.

No, although he’s seen as such in context. The Sabres were terrible. Miller was average. Therefore, an average performance behind a putrid defense is seen as something exemplary.

The Blues are very, very good. Usually. Not necessarily in this series, but then again, Miller was arguably below average against the Blackhawks. St. Louis acquired him to pick them up if they faltered in the playoffs, which is an annual rite. And he’s not that goalie anymore.

Too Many Men On The Site sees the end of Miller in St. Louis, too, and thinks West:

I believe Anaheim would be able to move Gibson, or Anderson if need be, but I do not think Miller is going be open to a bridge contract. I think he is looking for a place to call home for the rest of his career. If Miller is dead set on staying out west his choices will be limited, and at 33 -years-old it seems clear that Miller does not want to be part of a rebuild. There are only two or three teams I can see making a run a Miller.

I could see the Minnesota Wild trying to trade Ilya Bryzgalov, and bring Miller in. The Wild were rumored to be one of the teams attempting to trade for Miller at the deadline, but t hey may have some cap trouble. If Miller is willing to go home and play in the east again, the Detroit Red Wings are an interesting thought, but they have Jonas Gustavsson and Jimmy Howard. “Monster” is going to be a UFA, and Howard is under contract until 2018-2019. The Red Wings would have a lot of moving parts.

Whatever the future holds for Ryan Miller, it probably won’t be as a St. Louis Blue, unless he’s asking price in dollars and years is far below what’s anticipated.

It also won’t be as a playoff savior for a team that seeks one in goal. He has his chance here. He blew it. And the same couldn’t be said the management group that acquired him without also adding a few more goals beyond the David Backes line at the deadline, too.

At some point, this franchise will be known for something other than having a nickname that’s synonymous with what they give their fans every spring. But evidently it won’t be Ryan Miller that changes that tune.

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