The sample size is small and there won’t be a definite answer about whether or not Ryan Miller was worth the cost until the St. Louis Blues win or lose in the playoffs, but right now the new netminder hasn’t outplayed Jaroslav Halak since the February 28 trade.
Halak was initially dealt to the Buffalo Sabres, but he was later moved to the Washington Capitals. All told, Miller has played 11 games for St. Louis, while the former Blue has started eight times in Washington. To reiterate, the sample size is small but we can make a few hasty but reasonable conclusions based on what we know.
Miller has a better record than Halak—8-2-1 against 4-2-2—but that’s more of an indication of team quality than netminder quality. Neither player has registered a shutout, so neither player has outright stolen a game for their respective club. For the sake of this comparison, we’re going to look at save percentage.
Save percentage is widely considered the best measure for goalies as individuals. While it fails to take into consideration shot quality on any level, it gives us an idea of how often the goalie is stopping what he’s facing.
Halak has a .929 save percentage with the Capitals, allowing 19 goals on 486 shots. Miller has a save percentage of .913 after allowing 23 goals on 651 shots. Not only is Halak’s save percentage higher than Miller’s right now. He also posted better numbers than Miller while he was in St. Louis—Halak had a .917 save percentage through 40 games with the Blues.
This isn’t dump on Ryan Miller time and there’s still no reason to panic at this juncture. St. Louis is in contention for the Presidents’ Trophy and has points in nine of the last 11 games since the swap. They’re accumulating points at a rapid pace, and that’s important… during the regular season.
That goes out the window once the playoffs roll around though. Suddenly the inability to protect a lead in the third period matters a lot more, and suddenly those random .880 outings look a lot uglier. Miller’s save percentage was sparkling through nine games. For some reason he’s hit the skids lately though, and he’s seen his save percentage dip below .900 three straight times.
In the playoffs, performances like that can often lead to disappointing results.
Of the 23 goals that Miller has yielded as a Blue, few have been his fault. St. Louis has been susceptible to turnovers recently, and that’s another issue entirely. For instance, this goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs last night can be pinned on a terrible giveaway in the slot and not Miller.
Miller wasn’t at fault for Toronto’s third goal either. James van Riemsdyk had enough time to build a house in front of the goal, and the defense seemed oblivious to his existence as a top-end goal scorer sitting two feet off the post. The only player that picked him up was Brenden Morrow, but by that point the puck was already in the back of the net.
We’ve seen goalies make saves on plays like that before, and Miller was supposed to be one of those goalies. A guy that could break his team out of jail during the odd defensive malfunction. For whatever reason, St. Louis doesn’t seem to be playing a sound system in front of Miller, and that’s reflecting poorly on him.
If Miller can’t make the otherworldly stops though, what was the point of moving out assets to stay in the same place? Small sample size, sure. Just don’t expect as much leniency during a matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks or Los Angeles Kings. Or the Anaheim Ducks or San Jose Sharks.