For the first time this year, the Blues on Sunday confront their season. Unless they pull off something unseen since March 25 — namely, a road win — their 111 regular-season points, the five-month domination of the Central Division, a run at the Presidents’ Trophy and heavy representation in Sochi will atrophy against the backdrop of another empty April. The Blues have to beat the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center in Sunday afternoon’s Game 6 to force a Game 7 on Tuesday. The defending Stanley Cup champs are undefeated in six home games since losing to Nashville March 23. This is, as they say, not a good spot for the Blues. The Blues require a jolt. They need to convert more scoring chances. Most of all, they need goalie Ryan Miller to be more brilliant than good. They need him to equal the reputation they traded for two months ago. “We’re probably gonna have to steal a game to bring this thing back, so he’s gonna have to be part of the steal. He’s gonna have to be one of the robbers,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said about after Saturday morning’s skate. “He’s gonna have to be a big player for us. We know that. He knows that.” This best-of-seven series hasn’t been the same since Jonathan Toews somehow put a puck past Miller four minutes into the first period of Game 3. Before that, the Blues led the series 2-0. Two overtime losses jarred the Blackhawks, who also lost defender Brent Seabrook for three games as discipline for his hit on David Backes late in Game 2. Karma seemed squarely aligned against the Chicago Six. Coach Joel Quenneville absorbed a $25,000 fine for an inappropriate gesture in Game 1. Within an hour of Game 2, Quenneville’s Derby hopeful, Midnight Hawk, went off as the 4-to-5 favorite to win the Illinois Derby but got beat by a nose. Now look at what’s happened: The Blackhawks have scored first in the last three games. They’re now the ones who’ve won consecutive overtime games, one on a short-side goal, the other on a fluky breakaway. The ’Note has led a total 3 minutes, 42 seconds since Game 2. Backes returned Friday but had to leave several shifts early due to fatigue. Seabrook, who scored four points in the series’ first two games, returns to the Blackhawks lineup Sunday. Hitchcock credits Crawford for delivering the series’ “home run” in Game 3. “I think we let him steal Game 3,” Hitchcock conceded in reference to a loss that he thought produced better play from his team than in either of its two wins. “We had a lot of scoring chances, but we didn’t get into the greasy areas until too late. He was good. You’ve got to give him that.” The Blues already had “good” with Jaroslav Halak. General manager Doug Armstrong rated Halak among the league’s top 10 goalies before packaging him in the move for Miller. The new guy is supposedly elite.
It's time for Miller to shine ... or else
St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Apr 27