Early playoff exit clouds Miller's future

Ryan Miller had an .897 save percentage through six games against the Blackhawks. Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- Ryan Miller sat alone in a corner of the visitors dressing room at the United Center, his goalie pads and equipment still on. He was approached for an interview, and shook his head.

“Not right now,” he said.

He wanted to get his pads off. Maybe get some time to think, to process what just happened because it all unraveled so quickly.

Miller and his St. Louis Blues entered the third period against the Chicago Blackhawks with the game tied at 1, a pretty good position to be in on the road against the defending Stanley Cup champs.

Even after Jonathan Toews scored on a power play early in the third period, there was plenty of time to regroup.

That changed with the next goal. Two minutes into the third period, Patrick Sharp blocked a shot, then shot up the ice, receiving a pass from Patrick Kane. As he closed in on Miller, the Blues goalie tried a pokecheck, then ended up on his side. The puck slid underneath him as Sharp somehow got a shot off with Kevin Shattenkirk’s stick all over his arms. There would have been a penalty, but it wasn't necessary.

Neither was another game in this series.

That goal gave the Blackhawks a two-goal lead, and they went on to tack on a couple more to make the final 5-1, but it was over well before that. It was over the moment the puck slid under Miller, the kind of moment he was imported from the Buffalo Sabres to prevent.

“The goal was a backbreaker,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock after the game.

Miller wasn't necessarily the reason the Blues lost this game or this series. The Blues' power play went 0-for-6 in Game 6, all in the first two periods, when the Blues could have opened up a lead that would have changed the complexion of the third period dramatically. After opening a 2-0 series lead, the Blues scored a total of six goals in the next four games. Again -- not Miller’s fault.

“He did more than his share. We need to be better in front of him. We’re going to win as a team, lose as a team,” said Blues captain David Backes. “He works his butt off. He’s a consummate professional and a guy you love having on your team. Some of the plays, tips in front and things like that, I don’t think it matters who is in net."

For the Blues, it was supposed to matter who was in net. That’s why GM Doug Armstrong sent Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier and at least a 2015 first-round pick to the Blues for Miller and Steve Ott. A 2016 third-rounder, also in the deal, becomes a first-rounder if Miller (who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1) signs with the Blues before the draft.

That’s now very much in question.