On Friday night, the St. Louis Blues pulled off a stunning blockbuster trade with the Buffalo Sabres, as they will send Jaroslav Halak, Chris Steweart, Williams Carrier, a first-round draft pick in 2015 and a second-round draft pick in 2016 for Ryan Miller and Steve Ott. This was quite the haul to give up for the Blues, but it ensures the team’s status as favorites in the Western Conference to advance to the Stanley Cup this spring.
It is quite obvious that Miller is the biggest addition to the Blues, and he will end up replacing Halak as the team’s starting goaltender for the remainder of the regular season and into the postseason. During the current season, the American has a rather unimpressive 2.72 GAA, but a save percentage of .923 that is more indicative of the fact that he is a dominant force between the pipes. On the whole of his career, Miller has a 25-22 postseason record with a .917 save percentage in 47 games played, and he has never backed down from the big stage.
Even at the age of 33, there is little doubting that Miller is a game-changer come playoff time, as his mix of quickness in the crease, great shot-blocking ability and big-game experience makes him one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. During the 2014 postseason. he will at some point be called on to win a big game or two without much offensive help, but this should not be an issue based on historical precedent.
Meanwhile, in addition to just getting Miller, the Blues actually received quite a valuable piece in Ott, who was the Sabres’ captain. The gritty forward has great versatility in that he can play any of the three forward positions, and his ability to go after opponents and get under their skin is an extremely valuable asset come playoff time. The 31-year-old is not going to win games by himself, but his mix of gritty play, veteran experience and willingness to crash the net will likely see him slot in seamlessly with Brendan Morrow and Patrik Berglund on the team’s third line.
In terms of team-wide depth on offense and defense, there is no doubting that the Blues are stacked from top to bottom, and they have the results to back this up. On offense, the team has a unit compiled mainly of hard workers, as David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Morrow and even top-scorer Alex Steen embody the fact that the team places a huge emphasis on working hard on both ends of the ice, a philosophy that Ott will fit into perfectly. Meanwhile on the back end, St. Louis is led by veteran threesome Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and Kevin Shattenkirk, who are all sure-handed in the defensive zone, but also provide a punch on offense during 5-on-5 and power-play situations.
All in all, the Blues have just added to their team’s philosophy of hard work and two-way play that is conducive to postseason success, all while ensuring that in the rare occurrence they do mess up defensively, that their goaltender will shut the door. For a team that currently ranks second in points in the Western Conference and second in the NHL in goals per game, third in goals against and penalty-kill percentage and sixth in power-play efficiency, this is obviously a case of the rich getting richer. And ultimately it will end up aiding the Blues as they advance all the way to the Stanley Cup in 2014.