ST. LOUIS — OK, so it wasn’t like Ryan Miller was playing his first game back in Buffalo. But still, the Scottrade Center was the scene for an intriguing night, as the world-class goaltender was back in town for the first time since leaving the St. Louis Blues to sign a free agent deal with the Vancouver Canucks.
Prior to the game, Miller was the subject of an interesting column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch which, in part, read: “Miller is 34. He’s clearly not a goaltender that can carry a team.”
To be sure, Miller’s tenure in the shadow of the arch can only be described as a failure, but that’s not entirely on him. And on Thursday night? Well, he carried the Canucks to a 4-1 victory, making 31 saves along the way.
“You want to prepare like it’s any other game, but guys know when guys were on the other side, so obviously you want to get the win for him,” forward Derek Dorsett told The Trentonian.
“I think when we got that third (goal) there, we made a mention (on the bench), ‘Come on, boys. Millsy made a big save to keep us up.’ We want to get that victory for him coming back to an arena he was in last year.”
Miller made it a point to visit with some of his old teammates during the morning skate, but everything from there was all business for the 34-year-old netminder.
“It was interesting, I’ve never done that before, never had a chance to play against a former team like that,” he said. “There are a lot of good guys on the team, and it was one I was really looking forward to, especially in St. Louis. It was fun. I got yanked out of the last game, and we’re coming to a place where we bowed out of the playoffs early. There were some good memories, but it was a tough ending. It could have ended up being a little bit of an emotional game, so I wanted to get myself ready and I was looking forward to the challenge. The guys responded well.”
Head coach Willie Desjardins said after the game that after Miller was pulled from his last outing, he went over to the goaltender on the bench and told him he’d be starting in St. Louis. Miller’s message to his coach?
“That’s the game I want.”
For Dorsett, who’s played in front of some of the top goalies in the game over the last two seasons — Henrik Lundqvist and now Miller — he didn’t hesitate to put his current netminder among the best in the world.
“I think those guys are two of the elite, they’ve done it for years,” he said. “I think there’s some good goaltenders in the league, but I think when you ask who the best goaltenders are, it’s hard to pick one. I always say Miller, Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick; those guys are in the top three because they’ve done it year after year and they’re just consistent. Obviously, this game is a lot easier when you have a good goaltender.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com