Ryan Miller will get the start tonight when the St. Louis Blues take on the Toronto Maple Leafs on the road. It’s ridiculous to judge a player of Miller’s caliber but a small handful of games, but this is arguably his most important start as a Blue. Not because there’s a playoff spot on the line (there’s not), and not even because St. Louis is trying to keep pace with a Boston Bruins team that is on a 13-game point streak (they are).
Ryan Miller to start tomorrow against the #Leafs
— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) March 24, 2014
Miller needs to be good tonight because, frankly, he wasn’t outstanding against the Chicago Blackhawks or the Philadelphia Flyers—his last two starts.
There’s no sense of panic around the goalie, and there shouldn’t be. Miller is an all-world goalie, but he was supposed to be an upgrade over Jaroslav Halak in that St. Louis would never lose a game because of goaltending. The 33-year-old didn’t get a lot of offensive support in his last outings, but that doesn’t change Miller’s performance in net in any way. We’re not looking at wins against losses here. We’re looking at save percentage.
Against Philadelphia of March 22, Miller allowed two goals in the second period and one in the third. The Flyers are a potent offensive team, but St. Louis held them to only 18 shots. Could the Blues have scored another four goals to win the game? On another night, perhaps.
Miller’s save percentage on the evening was a catastrophic .833 though. It was one of his five worst games of the season from that perspective, and it came on the heels of allowing a Blackhawks team to score four times on 27 shots. That might seem more reasonable, but Chicago is another high-powered offense that typically generates a ton of attempts on net.
Only the San Jose Sharks shoot more often than the ‘Hawks, and St. Louis hacked six shots off of Chicago’s typical average (33.1). It seems that the Blues did their job in front of Miller. They weren’t perfect by any stretch, but perfect games are rare. Is this the kind of goal he would allow when he was on top of his game?
There’s a screen and a tip, but jumping seems odd. All four of Chicago’s goals came with action out in front of Miller, which is something that he’s going to have to learn to deal with in the postseason.
In reality, Miller might only want one or two of the last seven goals he’s given up back. There were no softies from 60 feet. A few bad turnovers lead to tallies, and so did some traffic. Aren’t those the kinds of situations the Blues brought the former Buffalo Sabre to town for though?
The back-to-back losses weren’t Miller’s fault entirely and there’s no reason to panic. Tonight is his most important start for St. Louis simply because he’s dropped two straight while seeing his save percentage dip below .900 on both occasions. Moreover, Toronto is a team that’s on the ropes and it’d be outstanding to see the veteran show some killer instinct. Historically, he has had that against the Maple Leafs.
— Sportsnet Ticker (@SportsnetTicker) March 25, 2014
That this is his most challenging start—bouncing back from two sub-par outings—speaks volumes on how well Miller has played since arriving in St. Louis. It’s just time to get the train back on the tracks. The Blues need to break out of a scoring slump and the goalie needs to make a few big stops.
It’s almost playoff time, after all.