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It's all over for Miller, Blues after third-period implosion in Chicago

Hawks winger Andrew Shaw celebrates his third-period goal against Ryan Miller (AP Photo)

By Mike Harrington

CHICAGO -- The St. Louis Blues brought in Ryan Miller as what they felt was the last key piece to make a Stanley Cup run. They didn't come close.

The Blues' season ended in stunning fashion Sunday as Miller got burned for four third-period goals in a 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks before a roaring, red-clad crowd at the United Center. The Hawks took the final four games of the first-round series to win it, 4-2.

And Miller thus has still not won a single postseason series since 2007, when the Sabres beat the New York Rangers in the second round. Miller has now dropped four straight matchups.

Miller got badly outplayed in the game and the series by Chicago's Corey Crawford, who had a 1.98 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in the six games. Miller had a 2.70 GAA and sickly .897 save percentage. 

"I'm just really disappointed the game didn't turn in our direction," Miller said. "1-1 going into the third is a pretty good situation for us and we didn't get it done."

The Blues had a 17-3 advantage in shots on goal in the second period and the count ws 28-11 through 40 minutes. But St. Louis went 0 for 6 on the power  play and paid the ultimate price when Chicago captain Jonathan Toews broke the 1-1 tie with a power-play goal 44 seconds into the third period.

Things really started to fall apart  when Patrick Sharp scored a fluky goal at 2:01, chipping the puck under Miller on a semi breakaway while getting high-sticked by Kevin Shattenkirk. Miller was caught going too late for a poke-check.

"I was in the right spot and that last tug he kind of chipped it in between," Miller said. "So yeah.  It was just too bad."

"The third goal was a backbreaker," said coach Ken Hitchcock. "The bench was still fine. Our team had great spirit at the start, great spirit for the first and second period. We played as well as we've ever played in this building the way we played the first two periods. The third goal? 'Whoosh' The air went right out of our bench."

Miller then gave up a deflection to Andrew Shaw at 7:30 and Duncan Keith beat him on 2-on-1 at 17:05 to close the scoring. It's the second straight year the Blues have won the first two games of their first-round series and lost the next four; the same thing happened last year against the Los Angeles Kings.

It also means Miller and former Sabres captain Steve Ott will head into free agency. 

"We're through with the hockey part now," Miller said. "We'll have to see where we're 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."

"I don't know what my situation is," said Ott. "It's way too early to even think about that. I don't want to think about that. I'm still thinking I'm running for a Cup right now."

Click below to hear full postgame audio from Miller, Steve Ott and Hitchcock. There's some silence at the start of the Miller clip but be patient. He's standing among us taking a few seconds pondering his answer to the first question.

Ryan Miller

Steve Ott

Ken Hitchcock

Hawks specialize in closing, Blues dealing in spooky coincidence

By Mike Harrington

CHICAGO -- The Blackhawks have everything in their favor going into Game Six today against the St. Louis Blues in the United Center (TV reminder: 3 p.m. Eastern on NBC and CBC).  Chicago has won three straight in the series, the last two in OT, and has a history of coming through in the clutch late in a playoff series, which I documented in my column for today's editions.

The print version of the column included the following chart, which pretty starkly shows how good the numbers are.



Analyzing the Chicago Blackhawks' playoff record the last five seasons:

Series record: 8-2
W-L record: 40-23
Games One-Three: 16-17
Games Four-Seven: 24-6
Overtime: 13-9
OT Games One-Three: 4-7
OT Games Four-Seven: 9-2


Meanwhile, the Blues are dealing with some incredibly bizarre history comparing  this series  to last year's loss to the LA Kings, a six-gamer that saw St. Louis also win the first two at home and then collapse. Look at what's happened in BOTH years. Wow

Game One: Alex Steen scored overtime winners.
Game  Two: Barrett Jackman scored the game-winning goal, this year’s coming in overtime.
Game  Three:  The Blues outshot the Kings and Blackhawks by nine but lost by shutout.
Game  Four:  The Blues blow a late 3-2 lead and lose, 4-3, to even the series.
Game Five (both years, remember!): Alex Pietrangelo scores the game-tying goal, his first of the playoffs, and gets assisted by Jaden Schwartz. But the Blues lose in OT, 3-2.

Last year in Game  Six, the Blues lost to the Kings, 2-1, and were eliminated. If they lose here today, 2-1 .... that would just be theater of the absurd.

Painting the town to support the Blues' run for the Stanley Cup

By Mike Harrington

ST. LOUIS -- As I previously posted, Steve Ott is certainly stoked about the Blues-Blackhawks series. And they're painting the town blue in support of their team.

They even changed the fountains of Kiener Plaza, in the shadow of the 1857 Courthouse and Gateway Arch, to blue in honor of the Blues. They've made these red for the Cardinals during my trips here for the World Series in 2004, 2006, 2011 and 2013. Click on the video below to stop and start it!

Ott on Blues-Blackhawks series: 'This is why we play this game'

By Mike Harrington

ST. LOUIS -- I had a chance to sit down with Blues forward and former Sabres captain Steve Ott today following the pregame skate for Game Five against the Blackhawks, and he was as stoked as you can imagine about getting a chance to play in a series like this.

Ott, remember, has not been in the playoffs since the Dallas Stars' 2008 run to the Western Conference finals.

"I've been waiting for that moment for a long time," he said.  "To have that jump-started and get back after it, this is why we play this game. This is why we fight so hard for 82 games, to scratch and claw and get a chance in the playoffs. Now with the parity in the league, it doesn't matter where you finish as long as you're in the playoffs."

Here's a look at Ott's series to date, listing goals-assists-points, plus/minus, ice time, shots on goal, hits and faceoffs

Gm# G-A-Pts +/- TOI,  SOG,  Ht, FO
Gm1 0-1-1 Ev 30:53 3/3/7-3
Gm2 0-0-0 -1 15:05 2/3/7-4
Gm3 0-0-0 -1 20:05 2/8/14-6
Gm4 0-1-1 + 2 18:11 0/7/9-12
Tot  0-2-2 Ev 21:05* 7/21/37-25
(*21:05 is Ott's average in the four games)

So you can see,  especially from hits and faceoffs, that Ott has been pretty active in this series. And he had the primary assist on Alex Steen's triple-overtime winner in Game One.

"I started feeling ... my game coming along because of the transition finally happening in the last 5-8 games," Ott said. "It's where I staarted to feel comfortable with structure and situations. It's kind of led into the playoffs, where now I feel totally comfortable like I have anywhere else in my

Ott had a good laugh when I told him that Patrick Kane's overtime winner for Chicago in Game Four was probably the first time in his career the South Buffalo native had some folks back home fretting over his exploits. There are certainly a lot of Ryan Miller fans in Buffalo, plus Sabres fans hoping the Blues win this series and draw closer to giving Buffalo their No. 1 draft pick for Miller.

"We all know there's a lot to cheer for with this St. Louis team for the people in Buffalo," Ott said. "It's great to have that kind of recognition there in Buffalo for myself and Ryan."

Be sure to look for more from Ott in my story in Saturday's editions of The News.

Blues waiting on Backes, Hawks looking for more offense

By Mike Harrington

ST. LOUIS -- The daily David Backes question is hanging over the pivotal Game Five between the Blues and Blackhawks tonight in Scottrade Center, as the teams are tied at two wins apiece.

Will the St. Louis captain play after taking the suspension-causing hit from Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook in Game Two? It appears the answer is no, as Backes did not take the morning skate today.

But this is the cloak-and-dagger show known as the playoffs and Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is keeping people guessing.

"Like I said in Chicago, there's lots of rinks here in St. Louis too so you never know," Hitchcock said wryly. "He might just jump on the ice and be there skating in the warmup. Then you can all press 'send' on your tweets and away you go."

Former Sabre Derek Roy skated this morning in the middle of a top line, between Jaden Schwartz and T.J. Oshie, but stayed on the ice with scratches and continued to skate -- which is quite odd. Roy was still on the ice when the media left the Blues locker room to speak to Hitchcock, so Roy could be the stop-gap if Backes can't go.

As for the Hawks, they continue to look for offense from Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa -- who both are goal-less through four games after finishing 1-2 on the team in the regular season with 34 and 30, respectively.

"I'll take all the chances I can get," Sharp said. "It means I'm creating something and doing something good out there. Sooner or later they're going to start going in." 

"I'm happy to play my 200-foot game," added Hossa, who has still done some good defensive work in the series. "I want to keep contributing there and my chances will come."

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville put Patrick Kane (team-high three goals) back with Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell this morning. Kane was not in the Hawks' crowded room when the media was inside. Hossa had been in that spot in Game Four.

Both coaches marveled at the intensity of the series and how big Game Five will be. The Blackhawks are 0-4 here this year and all four have been excruciating defeats.

"This is the advantage game, not the elimination game," Hitchcock said. "But we want the advantage."

Said Quenneville: "There's been some serious twists and turns inside of games here."

Video: Miller and Elliott-Roy-Hitchcock talk on tomorrow's matchup with Sabres

By Mike Harrington

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The St. Louis Blues have posted video of the session Ryan Miller had with the media today as well as snippets from Brian Elliott, Derek Roy and coach Ken Hitchcock.

Hitchcock may be a reviled figure in Buffalo thanks to 1999 but he's a beat writer's dream. He spoke for nearly 12 minutes today and I've included the entire audio package below, with talk about the Sabres and Blues, his thoughts on the New Jersey Devils' 0-11 run in shootouts that the Sabres' extended last night and even a quick snippet on Ted Nolan.

Ken Hitchcock audio

Click below to see the videos. Miller gets a little choked up for a moment at the 2:40 mark when talking about seeing his former teammates. The Hitchcock portion of the second video is only a small dose. 

Continue reading "Video: Miller and Elliott-Roy-Hitchcock talk on tomorrow's matchup with Sabres" »

With West showdowns looming, Blues will sit Miller against Sabres

By Mike Harrington

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- St. Louis Blues goaltender Ryan Miller (yes, that looks weird) is looking forward to seeing his old teammates perhaps tonight for dinner and tomorrow during the morning skate at Scottrade Center. But he won't see them on the ice during the Sabres-Blues game tomorrow night.

Brian Elliott will be getting the start for the Blues and Miller will be the backup. The Blues have afternoon showdowns Saturday and Sunday with Colorado and Chicago, so it makes sense for Miller to stay fresh for those and take a seat against the NHL's 30th-place team. Even if it is his old mates.

"It's fine," Miller said today after his team's optional practice at the suburban St. Louis Mills Ice Zone. "There will be a lot of time to worry about that later. This year, I'm pretty fresh leaving that situation so maybe it's just a nice little break. Get 'Ells' in there. He's going to kick some pucks out. Hopefully I'll see some of the boys for dinner or around the rink or something. Catch up and see how they're doing."

Miller got a tad emotional, as you would expect, when I asked him what it will be like to seeing his the Sabres on the other side.

"It's going to be a little strange.  Definitely with a group of guys you'd played with for a number of years, it's going to be a little bit different," he said. "All great guys, all guys I count as friends. I'm looking forward to seeing them. That's the human side of it. I'm actually excited. The guys are going to be in town. A chance to see some friends."

Coach Ken Hitchcock, who's ruined a few narratives in Buffalo in his time, said the decision was all about the weekend schedule. There's a good chance Miller could go back-to-back against the Avs and Hawks.

"We talked to him and said, 'Listen, do you have to play aginst Buffalo? Does it matter?''' Hitchcock said. "He didn't care one way or the other. So it set up our schedule nicely for what we wanted to do right to the end of the season."

Continue reading "With West showdowns looming, Blues will sit Miller against Sabres" »

Miller, Ott and others speak on Twitter

By Mike Harrington

Here's a collection of tweets posted last night and this morning by some of the principals in the Sabres-Blues trade (and one from Ryan Miller's wife, Noureen DeWulf):

Three teams later, Roy shuffles back to Buffalo with Blues

Derek Roy hopes his career finds a new high note in St. Louis.

By Mike Harrington

It's been more than 15 months since the Sabres traded Derek Roy, after he spent the first eight years of his NHL career with them. He returns tonight for the first time -- and, amazingly enough, Buffalo is three teams ago for the 30-year-old.

Roy signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the St. Louis Blues over the summer and will center the Blues' third line, between veteran Brenden Morrow and journeyman Adam Cracknell against the Sabres tonight in First Niagara Center. The Sabres traded Roy to Dallas for Steve Ott and Adam Pardy, and the Stars then sent Roy to Vancouver at the trade deadline in April.

Speaking to reporters today after the Blues' pregame skate, Roy said it took a while for him to overcome the disappointment of leaving Buffalo. In a meeting in June, 2012, Roy said he told former Sabres general manager Darcy Regier (doesn't that sound weird?) he wanted to stay. 

"I had some unfinished business here, winning a Stanley Cup or at least making a good playoff run," Roy said. "I thought we had a great team but then a couple weeks later I got traded. It was tough. I wanted to stay here. I had a lot of good friends on the team and around the city. It was a great place to play and a great place to live.

Continue reading "Three teams later, Roy shuffles back to Buffalo with Blues" »

John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl |

About Sabres Edge

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |