As the Chicago Blackhawks prepared for a nationally televised outdoor game on Saturday, their chief rivals in the NHL's Central Division made a bold move entering the stretch run.
The St. Louis Blues traded for Ryan Miller, one of the top goaltenders in the game, and bruising forward Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres. The Blues gave up their own starting goalie, Jaroslav Halak, and Chris Stewart. With the NHL's trade deadline approaching, it may not be the only move made before the deadline, but will it be a decisive one?
The Blues are already one of the top teams in the NHL and a leading contender, along with the Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks, to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals from the Western Conference.
Miller's credentials are unimpeachable. He has 284 career wins in the NHL and is a three-time Olympian. He was the starter when the U.S. won the silver medal in the 2010 Olympics.
Here are what some hockey experts had to say on Twitter shortly after the news broke:
The Blues clearly didn't trust their goalie tandem of Halak and Brian Elliott. Having Miller between the pipes is an undeniable upgrade for the team, but I wonder if the trade significantly improved the Blues' chances to win the Stanley Cup.
- Miller possesses a career playoff record of 25-22 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.
- Though much has been made of Miller's stats being inhibited this season from playing on an awful Buffalo team, his numbers aren't that much different than other seasons when his record was better than this year's 15-22.
- Halak's playoff numbers are comparable to Miller's postseason performance — 10-11 record, 2.42 GAA, .923 save percentage.
Miller's presence certainly gives St. Louis a leg up in securing the President's Trophy, awarded to the team with the NHL's best regular season record. But it may be another story once the Stanley Cup Playoffs start.
In a seven-game playoff series, the margin for error is much smaller and the variables that can decide the outcome unpredictable. The Chicago Blackhawks rode relatively unknown goalies to Cup titles in 2010 (Antti Niemi) and 2013 (Corey Crawford). On the flip side, the Hawks were eliminated from the 2012 playoffs largely on the strength of a dominant performance by the opposing goalie.
All this adds up to is that the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be, as always, the most intense sports tournament there is.
Terry Mark is The Elkhart Truth's news editor and an avid fan of the Chicago Blackhawks.