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Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Doug Armstrong shifts focus to future

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ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues thought they added the final piece of the puzzle when the team traded for goalie Ryan Miller just before the deadline.

But after squandering a 2-0 series lead for the second straight postseason, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong is not so sure. Miller, who is a free agent, allowed 19 goals against the Chicago Blackhawks and his save percentage was just .897.

"It's a two-way street with Ryan right now," Armstrong said. "He has opportunities. I want to sit and talk with him and get his feelings about our organization. See where he thinks we're at, see if he even has any interest in being a St. Louis Blue."

Ryan Miller
Ryan Miller, who is a free agent, allowed 19 goals against the Chicago Blackhawks and his save percentage was just .897.

The Blues won a franchise-record 52 games this season and have been one of the best teams each of the past three regular seasons. St. Louis had 60 points in a lockout shortened 2012-13 campaign and 109 points in 2011-12, but it has been a different story in April.

In 2013, St. Louis won the first two games against the Los Angeles Kings at home and then dropped the next four to the then-defending Stanley Cup champions. This season, St. Louis got the jump on defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago, then again lost four straight to end the season.

"We're in the winning business and we're not winning at the appropriate time of the year," Armstrong said Tuesday. "We have to fix that."

Armstrong and coach Ken Hitchcock said that the Blues need to develop a killer instinct if they are to get over their postseason hump.

"We weren't able to create the gap in Games 3 and 4 and win on the road, which you have to do in the playoffs," Hitchcock said. "That's the killer instinct that you need to have. We weren't able to do it in either series, and it hurts. That's everyone's responsibility. Mine, Doug's, the players, other coaches, everybody. That's the part that hurts. We couldn't apply the killer instinct in Games 3 and 4 when we needed to in both years."

The focus in St. Louis will now shift to the future. Several players have been a part of the past three seasons, and figure to be part of the mix moving forward: forwards T.J. Oshie, Alexander Steen and David Backes, and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo.

Armstrong said that Jake Allen, who had another strong year in the American Hockey League, will be one of the team's net minders. But who will join him is the question.

When asked about the future this week after the Blues were eliminated, Hitchcock deferred to Armstrong, but did say Miller was not to blame.

"I don't get into long-term stuff. That's Doug's department. He played good for us. I'm sure there's some goals that he'd like to have back, just like any goalie would. We win as a team and lose as a team,'' said Hitchcock.

Asked how he played, Miller said: "I'm going to sit down and think about that. Not good enough, I guess."

Miller was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 28 along with forward Steve Ott in a deal that cost the Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart and a first-round pick in 2015. He made $6.25 million last season.

"I've just got to take things as they come right now," Miller said, adding, "I guess I'm free to go to my sister-in-law's wedding."

Miller would like to stay, but acknowledged he wasn't sure how the Blues "feel about me." He had a 2.70 goals-against average and .897 save percentage in the series.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.