Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Ryan Miller riding high on debut in the Lou
By Pierre LeBrun
Let it be known that when we tracked down goaltender Ryan Miller on Monday afternoon, he was in the checkout line at Whole Foods performing one of the several errands he had mapped out in only his third full day in St. Louis.
"Today I have a car full of stuff I have to figure out how to get up an elevator. That's my next challenge of the day," Miller said with a chuckle over the phone.
The St. Louis Blues' blockbuster acquisition spent most of his first week on the road with his new team, which he said was very beneficial in getting to know the new lads.
On Sunday night, Miller moved into a furnished apartment.
"I've been running around all day trying to get things done," said Miller, whose Blues host the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night. "It's kind of a whirlwind, especially coming back from Sochi. Even though I didn't play as much as other guys at the Olympics, we trained really hard while we were there. With the time change, it took me a little long to adjust. It felt like [Saturday's game against] Colorado was the first game where I felt awake. Before that, I was running on adrenaline after the trade."
Not bad for a guy running on adrenaline: Miller is 4-0-0 as a Blue, having allowed only six goals.
It's the kind of first impression that was likely needed, given the immensity of this trade. The Blues were telling the hockey world they were all-in with the Miller pickup.
"That's not lost on me. I understand what's going on and the expectations that come along with it," said Miller. "It's not unlike the years in Buffalo when I played on some teams that were ranked pretty highly [back-to-back conference finals, in 2006 and 2007]. It was a similar kind of feeling, just trying to learn lessons from those seasons and be ready to perform when it counts."
Being traded for the first time can be daunting, but Miller has found a dressing room he already likes very much.
"It's been good, a nice group of guys. They've got energy and confidence," said Miller. "This group has not disappointed. Such a hard-working team, very competitive. That's what stands out so far."
Of course, there's some familiarity that helps Miller in his transition. He came over from Buffalo with Steve Ott, and in St. Louis he has been reunited with former Sabres teammates Jordan Leopold and Derek Roy. Plus, he is becoming reacquainted with Team USA teammates David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk.
"What was kind of wild was that, less than a week before I got traded, we had been sitting in a cafe with those guys in Sochi," Miller said, chuckling, referring to the Olympians. "My wife and I had gone for a walk on the Black Sea. We had a day to ourselves before we had to fly back. We hung out with Backes and his wife and family and T.J. and his mom and my wife and I.
"It was kind of ironic. We laughed about it after the trade. When I got to the Blues, we joked, 'We were on the Black Sea just six days ago.'"
Now about that white mask Miller has been wearing. When is that newly designed Blues mask coming?
"I've got one in the works," said Miller. "Obviously, it takes a little bit of time. I sent a design over to [mask creator] Ray Bishop a couple of days ago. He sent me a little teaser, so he appears well on his way with that and hopefully I'll get it soon."
Then Miller adds in a nod to his agent and former Blues netminder of the 1980s: "But until then, it's a throwback to Mike Liut with the white mask."
Miller found it tough to leave Buffalo, a comment he repeated a few times Monday, but it's clear he's quickly making St. Louis his home.
Whether it’s just for a few months or longer remains unanswered, but buckle up, NHL: The first-place Blues have their goalie and they're going for it.