Blues experience 'Miller time' for first time

Blues experience 'Miller time' for first time

Credit: UPI

St. Louis Blues goaltender Ryan Miller snags a shot by Philadelphia Flyers Claude Giroux during a shootout at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on April 1, 2014. St. Louis won the game 1-0. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

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by Andrew Allsman, HockeySTL

KMOV.com

Posted on April 2, 2014 at 12:09 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 2 at 12:11 PM

(HockeySTL) -- Tuesday night looked eerily familiar to a packed house at Scottrade Center. It looked reminiscent of the Blues’ last two playoff appearances where they have been shut down by Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.

But it wasn’t Quick standing between the pipes, and it wasn’t an opponent goalie causing the frustration. This time, it was Ryan Miller.

Miller, 33, stopped all 31 Flyers’ shots, and added two more to that total in the shootout. It was Miller’s first shutout as a Blue and his first in 101 games. And he looked flawless.

“We had a good player,” Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said following the game. “He was terrific. He was focused and competitive and whatever else. We needed him badly today. He stood tall. We really needed him today and he came through big time.”

Miller’s shutout, his first since Mar. 21, 2012, was literally a long time coming for the goaltender. His last shutout had been so long ago that the goaltender couldn’t recall anything about it.

“No, nothing,” said Miller when asked about it.

But his shutout performance on Tuesday is one that won’t soon be forgotten in St. Louis.

“I haven’t seen that in a really long time -- maybe since (Ed) Belfour -- where a guy makes that many great saves,” said Hitchcock. “It was really neat to watch, to be honest with you. The feeling on the bench for me was they weren’t going to score. I haven’t had that feeling in a game where we’ve been outplayed.

“There have been times where (Jaroslav) Halak and (Brian) Elliott played well, but we played well in front of them. We really needed him (on Tuesday) and he came through.”

Miller made a countless number of saves he had no business making. On several occasions, fans rose to their feet and loudly applauded Miller, who would later be named the game’s first star. The performance looked even better from the bench.

“There were some saves there where you are about to put your head down because you think it’s about to go in the net,” said forward T.J. Oshie. "Yet, he seemed so calm and would save it.”

One of those saves came in overtime on Jakub Voracek, who corralled the puck right in front of Miller. But a strong pad-stretch by the goaltender kept the game going and ultimately allowed the Blues to win in the shootout.

“We got to see just how special he can be,” said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. “He was just on. You could sense it. It was fun to watch.”

Oshie and Shattenkirk both became acquainted with Miller this past summer and in February when Team USA converged.

Miller was Team USA’s second goaltender, behind Quick, but the players were still able to watch him in practice and in a game. So, those two players weren’t exactly surprised by his performance.

“I hyped him up before he got here, talking about how good he really is,” said Oshie.”It was pretty amazing to watch.”

For the All-Star goalie, the adjustment from Buffalo to St. Louis has been a time-consuming one. Miller went from the last-place Sabres to a team in the Blues who are competing for the Presidents’ Trophy and Stanley Cup.

The goaltender has had to learn new defensive systems, his team’s playing style, and even the voices of his new teammates. It hasn’t come easy.

Prior to Tuesday’s performance, Miller had a tough go against Dallas, allowing four goals on 23 shots. The goaltender said he wanted to re-establish himself after that, and a few other performances.

“I felt like, in the last four or five games it hasn’t really gone my way,” said Miller. “I just wanted to go out and grind and compete and see if one could go my way and it did.”

“It’s a nice feeling (getting the shutout), especially against a team who has been playing really well,” said Miller. “It was coming on the heels of a couple of game where I was trying to re-establish myself and bounce back  and get back to the form I need to be in.”

Hitchcock called Miller’s performance against Dallas “just average”, and Miller was noticeably down following that game. But his game on Tuesday was anything but average. It was redemption.

From day one, Hitchcock and Miller have both talked about the competiveness of the veteran goalie. Hitchcock says the competitive nature of Miller is responsible for his bounce back.

“I think what you saw was how competitive he is,” said Hitchcock. “That’s his calling card. He’s a really competitive person and he was really disappointed with the way he played the last game.”

But Miller knew all along it was only a matter of time before things began to go his way. That mentality is the reason he never changes the way he plays the game.

“At this point in my career I am just trying to be really calm about everything,” said Miller. “No sense in letting things get off the rails and panicking too much. Hockey is a game where sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don’t, despite what you do.”

Most people around the NHL knew what Miller was capable of. But few in St. Louis had seen it in person.

"I think it's his coming-out party," Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said. "He's been solid most of the games for us, and he just stepped it up another level tonight."

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