Will Ryan Miller Be Able to Rebound for St. Louis Blues’ Playoff Run?

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Blues knew they had to make a big move to help get them over the hump come playoff time. The team has struggled to make it any farther than the conference semifinals as of late, and even though they were one of the Western Conference’s top teams, the Blues wanted to make a splash at this season’s trade deadline. This was achieved when they made a blockbuster trade with the Buffalo Sabres, acquiring goalie Ryan Miller.

The move paid off right away, as Miller won seven of his first eight starts. It certainly looked like he was ready to take advantage of playing for a postseason contender. However, things haven’t been as pleasant lately. St. Louis ended the season on a six-game losing streak, with Miller in net for five of the losses. In that time, his numbers weren’t exactly comforting, as he posted a 3.82 GAA and a .856 save percentage. With a first-round matchup against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks kicking off this Thursday, will Miller be able to get himself together and help the Blues end their recent playoff struggles?

For what it’s worth, Miller feels pretty confident in himself.

“Obviously it’s been a tough stretch as far as goals-against, but I don’t feel like I’m in a really bad place,” he said. “I feel like I’m in a pretty good place, honestly. I know people probably will take that and just chop it up and laugh about it, but I feel pretty good.

“I can compete. I just have to worry about battling and competing. It was going to be the same job no matter what. Once you get to the playoffs everybody’s at zeros, so compete.”

Miller brings up a great point; once the playoffs begin, everybody starts from scratch. His career postseason statistics are solid as well, and though this is his first trip since 2011, you know he’ll have no trouble getting geared up and ready to compete.

The key for Miller, along with the rest of the Blues, is to not let the late-season slump affect his play in the postseason. Sure, he can talk all he wants about him being in a good place and being ready to go, but at the end of the day it’s all about proving it with his on-ice performance. Bad habits are easy to pick-up and incredibly difficult to drop, so it’d be understandable if St. Louis fans were a little nervous about the skid the team went through to end the season. If Miller struggles Thursday night, those nerves felt by the Blues faithful might escalate quickly.

That said, Miller has been around the league long enough to know what kind of opportunity he has here. He went from a struggling Sabres team to a St. Louis club who can definitely contend for the Cup. Because of this, he’s bringing an end to his three-year playoff hiatus. Sure, going up against the reigning champions isn’t ideal, but Miller is certainly capable of taking on the task. If anything, the doubts being cast his way might even help him. Reading the quotes above, it sounds like he has the “I’ll show you what I can do” mentality that can only benefit his team.

All eyes will be on Miller come Thursday night. He certainly sounds ready, and the Blues undoubtedly hope he shows it against Chicago. If he does, St. Louis will be a team to reckon with, and this six-game losing streak will be nothing more than a distant memory.

Casey Drottar is an NHL writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @CDrottar19 or “Like” him on Facebook

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