In three games with the St. Louis Blues, Ryan Miller has already matched the longest winning streak he had this season in Buffalo. If given the chance to extend it in their next game, he’ll have to top the only NHL team he’s yet to beat in his 11-year career.
Including his final start for the Sabres, Miller has won a season-best four straight and can match his longest winning streak in nearly two years Saturday at Colorado against the similarly streaking Avalanche, who have a hot newcomer of their own.
Miller, who last won five straight from March 19-27, 2012, has had a relatively easy time with his new team. He’s faced 25 shots or fewer in each game with the Blues (42-14-6), something that hasn’t happened in his career since Dec. 26-30, 2011.
"Every night, these guys track hard," Miller said of his new teammates. "They know where to be. They make the game easy to read."
Along with the 4-0-0 record since returning from the Olympics, the 2010 Vezina Trophy winner has posted a 1.75 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
"It’s like everything sticks to him," coach Ken Hitchcock told the team’s official website after Thursday’s 2-1 win in Nashville.
He’s been a little greasier when facing Colorado, though, going 0-3-3 with a 3.59 GAA in his career against the Avalanche. Miller allowed five goals in two periods before being pulled against them on Feb. 1.
The team’s third straight win after dropping its first two back from the break has helped stall the closing gap at the top of the Central Division between first-place St. Louis and the third-place Avalanche (41-17-5), winners of four straight. Colorado has won 14 of 19 and picked up five points in the standings on St. Louis in that span.
"Our goal was to lead the division at the Olympic break and we did that, and now the goal is to try to win the Presidents’ Trophy and, what the heck, that’s important for us," Hitchcock said. "It puts value in what’s left of these 19 games now, and we want to take advantage of this."
Ending Miller’s honeymoon with a fifth straight win would vault the Avalanche ahead of second-place Chicago and get them within a point of regaining a division lead they seized early on this season with 12 wins in their first 13 games.
Center Nathan MacKinnon has been a big part of the recent chase. The rookie established an NHL record for the longest point streak by an 18-year-old with an assist on Andre Benoit’s overtime winner in Thursday’s 3-2 victory at Detroit. The 13-game streak surpassed Wayne Gretzky’s 12-game run during the 1979-80 season.
The 2013 No. 1 overall pick has five goals and 13 assists during the streak.
"It’s pretty cool," MacKinnon said. "I want to be as consistent as possible. He (Gretzky) probably doubled my point total in those games."
Extending it against St. Louis will tie him with Western Conference rivals Patrick Kane and Ryan Getzlaf for the league’s top streak this season.
"I’m happy for him, but I’m more happy to see us win the game," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy told the team’s official website. "I’m sure Nate feels the same."
MacKinnon isn’t the only Avalanche player showing consistency. Center Matt Duchene had a goal and an assist against the Red Wings and has 10 points on a six-game streak, while left wing Ryan O’Reilly had two assists to give him nine points on a five-game roll.
St. Louis has won two meetings with the Avalanche this season by a combined score of 11-4. For the Blues, Alexander Steen has three goals, while David Backes, Derek Roy and T.J. Oshie each have five points in the series.
Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov lost both contests and has dropped his last three games against St. Louis with a 3.69 GAA.