With their sixth straight defeat – and second consecutive shutout loss – the St. Louis Blues backed into second place in the Central Division and a first round match-up with the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
On March 12, the Central Division standings looked like this:
Most, at that time, assumed the Hawks would face the Colorado Avalanche in the first round. Indeed, many writers undoubtedly did research up until the last week for a series preview because there was “no question” the Hawks would face the Avs to open their title defense.
But things change. And one month after those standings, the picture is dramatically different at the top.
Colorado is your division champion, and the Hawks finished third.
St. Louis is coming off their worst stretch of hockey this season, scoring only five goals in their six consecutive losses to close the regular season. They were shutout three times in those six games, and Ryan Miller was in net for five of the six.
When Miller was acquired from Buffalo, fans outside St. Louis were split about the impact he would have. Everyone respects what Miller has done in his career, but recent struggles in Buffalo were being blamed as much on the mediocre (read: bad) players in front of him as they were on Miller himself.
Moving to a “strong defensive team” in St. Louis would improve his numbers, right?
With Sunday’s 3-0 loss to Detroit in the books, Miller’s season ended with the results being less than what many had hoped for and, frankly, expected. He posted a 10-8-1 record in 19 appearances for the Blues with a .903 save percentage and 2.47 goals against average.
By comparison, Corey Crawford has a 10-7-0 record with a .918 save percentage and 2.05 goals against average since the Olympics.
Miller has actually appeared in more career playoff games (47) than Crawford (37), and has performed well in those opportunities. In his postseason career, Miller has a .917 save percentage (all with Buffalo).
However, the 33-year-old netminder hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2011, and hasn’t been into the second round since 2007.
Crawford, meanwhile, has a better career postseason save percentage (.924) than Miller and has an 18-11 record in the two postseasons since Miller last appeared in the playoffs.
Glen Hall played in the Stanley Cup Final for both franchises, but only one of Miller or Crawford will advance to the second round. Which goalie will lead his team to victory?
We’ll find out beginning Thursday night.