(HockeySTL)-- It’s been just over three days since Ryan Miller left Buffalo and became a part of the Blues’ roster.
The goaltender left his home of 11 seasons, flew to Phoenix, started in his first game with the Blues, flew to St. Louis, and met with the media on Monday morning. All of this happened in less than 72 hours.
But finally having a chance to step back and take in the situation, Miller wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s exciting,” Miller said. “It’s a great opportunity to step into a team that has great confidence, feels good about itself and is playing good hockey. I am just looking for a chance to contribute.”
Miller had his first chance to contribute on Sunday as he stepped between the pipes for the first time wearing the Note. The 33-year-old goaltender stopped 23 of 25 shots and emerged with his first win as a Blue.
It was Miller’s 285th career win, his 541st career game, yet, he still had to deal with the pre-game nerves on Sunday. It was an entirely different situation for the goaltender, who had never played a professional game as the property of a team not named the Sabres. Despite his lofty resume, Miller wanted to prove himself firsthand to fans, to management, and to his teammates.
“You play somewhere long enough and you have a couple years of good will built up. You switch teams and you start from scratch,” said Miller. “It’s definitely something where you want to show the fans what you can do. You want them to feel comfortable with you in net. That’s just kind of what I’m going for.
“I think it’s a good feeling. It means you have taken the situation seriously. You get the butterflies, you get nervous, you get anxious even though I’ve been in the League for quite a while. That doesn’t change.”
The win didn’t come easy for Miller and the Blues, but a win is a win, and is especially impressive considering a day earlier Miller was still trying to grasp the situation.
The Blues acquired Miller from Buffalo on Friday evening in a blockbuster deal that sent Chris Stewart, Jaroslav Halak, William Carrier, and two draft picks to Buffalo in exchange for Miller and Steve Ott. Miller spent 11 seasons in Buffalo, and had called the Sabres his team since being drafted in 1999. When he has talked about the Blues in years past, he’s addressed them as “they” and talked about them as opponents. On Monday, he was talking about them as friends, not foes.
Miller had seen it all in Buffalo. He’d been a part of teams that were considered Stanley Cup contenders and he’d been a part of a team in need of serious rebuilding. When the latter stages were reached in Buffalo, Miller knew his time with the team was coming to a close.
A move was inevitable with Buffalo gearing up for a full-on rebuild. The goaltender didn’t have to pose the question of whether or not he would be moved, but he did wonder where he would be going. Ultimately, it was the Blues that wanted him and were willing to give up the asking price for him.
“It’s been kind of like that for the last year for me,” said Miller in regards to the rumors surrounding a trade. “So, it’s something where I had the summer to sit on that thing and really focus on just stopping the puck and competing. I think it’s been a good approach that I’m going to try to bring here to St. Louis.”
The night of the trade, Miller stood before the Buffalo media, and in the midst of his farewell, the reality and excitement of the situation hit him.
“It was hard to say good-bye to Buffalo,” Miller admitted. “It was something that hit me a little harder than I thought it would. Now that I’ve had the chance to step away, it becomes exciting. It’s a new adventure, something positive for my career. I’m taking that approach. Buffalo was a great part of my hockey career and I’ll be forever grateful, but I’m really looking forward to the chance here.”
And Miller couldn’t think of a better place than St. Louis to start fresh.
The Michigan native grew up a fan of hockey. In particular, he grew up a fan of the Blues. Miller’s cousin, Kevin, spent three seasons with the Blues. Miller’s favorite goaltender, Curtis Joseph, was with the Blues at the same time as Miller’s cousin. It was impossible for Miller to root for any other team.
“Kevin was a big part of it. Curtis Joseph being here was another big part of it, him being my favorite goaltender growing up. Just the way (Joseph) would compete and go about his business. I thought he was a good person and competed really hard and did whatever he could to stop the puck. That’s really inspirational as a young goaltender. It was all about ‘Cujo’ and my cousin for a long time.”
Now, Miller is playing for the team he once rooted for. It all seems like a dream for the veteran goalie, but it will really sink in when Miller takes the ice at Scottrade Center for the first time wearing a Blue Note on Tuesday evening.
“It’s something where I am really blown away that I am playing for the St. Louis Blues,” said Miller. I had the hat, I had a jersey. “
The Blues are hoping Miller is the final piece of the Stanley Cup puzzle. It’s a piece they have been searching for in earnest for a few seasons. The Olympic goalie is hoping the team, with his help, can hoist the Cup in the air at the end of the season. After all, the Blues are now all-in with Miller.
“I think this team has been in that mode for a while and they are just trying to find the right combination,” Miller said. “I’m hoping that I can help add to that.”