Multitude of factors lead to Blues' early playoff exit

News-DemocratApril 27, 2014 


— Ryan Miller, the veteran goaltender acquired by the St. Louis Blues to upgrade their playoff potential, suffered his fourth straight loss Sunday as Chicago clinched the first-round playoff series.

Miller was victimized for five goals on 27 shots, but the two he surrendered in the opening minutes of the third period were the costliest.

They turned a 1-1 game that the Blues were dominating for a time into a 3-1 lead for the defending Stanley Cup champs.

The Blackhawks never looked back as they scored three goals on 14 shots in the third period, slamming the door on the Blues' season.

"I'm just really disappointed the game didn't turn in our direction....1-1 going into the third it's a pretty good situation for us," said Miller, 2-4 in the playoffs with a 2.70 goals-against average and .897 save percentage. "Didn't get it done."

Miller allowed five goals, stopping 22 of 27 shots.

While some felt Chicago's Patrick Shaw may have interfered with Miller on Jonathan Toews' goal 44 seconds into the third period, Miller's poke check attempt on Sharp's goal came up empty.

While there is plenty of blame to pass around when it comes to assessing another first-round playoff exit by the Blues, goaltenders tends to be under a microscope in the postseason.

How did Miller think he played against Chicago?

"I'll have to sit down and think about that," he said. "I don't know, not good enough I guess."

Miller, obtained from the Buffalo Sabres in a trade for goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, a prospect and conditional draft pick, is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent following this season.

What are his immediate plans?

"I don't know," he said. "We'll just have to take them as they come right now. I guess I'm free to go to my sister in law's wedding, so that's about it."

Miller is 27-26 in 53 career playoff games with a 2.49 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. He has not played on a team that went beyond the second round since the 2006-07 Sabres reached the Eastern Conference finals.

Miller is interested in returning to the Blues.

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

Blues captain David Backes was not critical of Miller's play.

"He works his butt off," Backes said. "He's the consummate professional. A guy that you love having on your team. Some of the plays, tips in front and things like that, I don't think it matters who's in net. They made some good plays. They were blocking our shots, were trying similar plays or finding ways to get in lanes or denying opportunities ... he did more than his share and we need to do more in front of him."

They've got the power-play Blues

One of the contributing factors to the first-round playoff loss was a Blues power play that finished the series 2-for-29. That included an 0-for-6 struggle Sunday, with many of those coming while the game was tied or within a goal.

"We were trying new things," Blues winger T.J. Oshie said. "We stopped and looked at some video after the second because they were doing such a good job at keeping us to the outside. We did get our chances, just didn't bury them.

"We had a couple of different looks. We were hoping in the third to set up some different plays, but never got that chance."

Ironically, Chicago scored what proved to be the game-winning goal on its first power play.

"They get a power-play goal and it seemed to have more of an effect on us than probably it should of," Blues captain David Backes said. "There's still 20 minutes to play in a series that's been darn near tied up the whole time.

"We start pressing a little bit and they get a few chances. They've got plenty of guys who can bury the puck and got to display it there in the third, but all that stuff aside, we didn't get the job done."

First-round battle

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews gave the Blues credit for an all-out battle that pushed the intensity levels to highs rarely seen in a first-round playoff series.

Was this the toughest first-round series he's been involved in?

"I think so," Toews said. "Doesn't get any more difficult than that with the physicality in the series, the things that happened the first couple of games; some hatred between those two teams.

"You always see those storylines develop throughout a series, but especially in this one. I can't give them enough credit for how hard they played and for how bad they wanted it."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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