Good morning or applicable time of day relative to you at this point!
First off let me say I am and have been a VERY casual hockey fan since the Mike Keenan era in St Louis where he gutted the soul of the franchise (Brendan Shanahan traded for Chris Pronger). So pretty much since then I have hung back and given a golf clap here and there to the boys sporting the Blue Note on their sweaters…at least until the second round of the playoffs hits (see St Louis Blues Playoff Choke Jobs on Google).
This year at the trading deadline the Blues swapped out one of their trusty goalies of the last few seasons with a pretty impressive regular season record in Jaro Halak. Starting from the 2011-2012 season through the trade this year with the St Louis Blues – Jaro had a record of 56 Wins 26 Losses 12 Overtime Losses 13 Shutouts with a Goals Against Average for each season never higher than 2.48 (Note: Halak did miss some extended time due to injury in the 2012-2013 season). In the same time frame, Ryan Miller albeit with a weaker defensive team posted 63 Wins 60 Losses 15 Overtime Losses 6 Shutouts with a Goals Against Average for each of those seasons never lower than 2.55. Boil each down to just wins and losses: Halak W 56 – L 38 Regular Season (W 10 – L 11 postseason) vs Miller W 63 – L 75 (W 25 – L 21 postseason). Based on just these numbers, Miller has a slightly better postseason track record but worse regular season with a slightly higher GAA in both.
OK now that I threw out some garbage numbers for you to mull let’s argue something that is intangible like team chemistry. Let me turn back the clock 20 or so years. The 1990-1991 season the St Louis Blues were in first place in the entire league heading into the trading deadline. The front office was doubtful their finesse team would be tough enough come the start of the playoffs and they pulled the trigger on a trade that brought defenseman Garth Butcher to town – in the process jettisoning fan favorites Cliff Ronning and Geoff Courtnall and to a lesser extent Sergio Momesso. A good deal of the team’s chemistry and momentum as shipped out of town with this move and in the end the team did not advance out of the second round of the playoffs.
Flip back to the present. Halak and under-performing Chris Stewart plus draft picks sent to the Buffalo Sabres for their face of the franchise in Miller and their captain Steve Ott. So far the Blues have had relative success since Miller arrived but looking at the small sample of work its not unrealistic to think Halak and tandem goalie Brian Elliott couldn’t have produced similar results. Their hopes of capturing the President’s Trophy for best overall record in the league seem to be faint with a 3 point deficit behind Boston with only 3 games remaining for each team. Of immediate concern should be finishing with the best record in their conference which will come down to the Blues or the Colorado Avalanche or the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks.
The perception around the league is that Miller is a bigtime goalie that will be a difference maker in the playoffs. Is he Jonathan Quick of Los Angeles Kings fame? In my opinion no but he could be the X-factor in the Blues desperate push for a first Stanley Cup. The flaw that I see with bringing in Miller to this situation is that Miller is used to a game flow where he is constantly being tested in goal and it allows him to stay sharp and focused with constant repetition. With the defensive system in place in St Louis, the amount of shots he sees has been significantly reduced and on some of the goals allowed he looks a bit sloppy and like he is trying to do too much. Halak and Elliott have been conditioned to the style and tempo the Blues defense allows the other team – Miller seems to be struggling to relax and focus in the short bursts needed. I predict the Blues shortcomings in this year’s elimation games will be what it has been since Brett Hull moved on – lack of that game-changer play-maker. Ovechkin, Jagr, Crosby or Datsyuk single-handedly draw special attention from everyone on the opposing team – just like an Al MacInnis slap shot from the point back in the day. The Blues lack that dynamo on offense. Alexander Steen has had a nice season and Valdimir Tarasenko was starting to validate some of the hype around his arrival but the Blues are more of a supporting cast goal you to death by committee. Should be an interesting last week of the season into playoff time.
I figured now would be the time to bust this out. Like I said I am a very casual fan so I may look like a huge arse when this is all said and done (I thought the St Louis Cardinals in baseball were done during the stretch run in 2011 as well). As someone who loves sports and loves to debate both sides of an argument…let’s see where this goes.
Happy Hump Day y’all! 🙂