As much as Chicago Blackhawks fans hate to hear it, the St. Louis Blues are having one of the strongest seasons since the Central Division rose to the top as the hardest division in the entire NHL. The Blues are currently first in the Division, tying the ‘Hawks with 86 points, but holding two games in hand.
The Blues got significantly more dangerous on Friday night, when they landed Ryan Miller and Steve Ott of the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Chris Stewart and Jaroslav Halak, as well as futures. Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith hit the nail on the head when describing the Blues’ intentions:
“Looks like they’re loading up.”
First, let’s see just what the Blues got when they made the deal on Friday. Halak’s story is very interesting: Just as he did in Montreal several years ago, he was traded just months after he had finally won the starting job, this time from Brian Elliott. Miller and Halak are nearly equal in career save percentages, although Miller’s comes after back stopping a less-than-stellar Sabres defense in the past few years. Miller is more respected in the hockey world, but numbers are the important factor in this trade.
Chris Stewart was taking reps on the Blues’ first line, something Steve Ott will come nowhere near close to duplicating with the Note on his chest. Add in prospect William Carrier and a first-round pick, and all signs point to Buffalo as the winners of this deal.
All eyes have turned to the other Western Conference superpowers, namely the Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks. Stan Bowman has been one of the most passive General Managers leading up to the trade deadline, but would a big move by a close rival push him to hit the phone lines?
Bowman wouldn’t stay idle for long after, as he traded Brandon Pirri to the Florida Panthers on Sunday night. Pirri, who had been up-and-down with the Blackhawks and the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL all season, was named AHL All-Star Classic MVP, and led the league in scoring last year.
The Blackhawks weren’t too concerned with the immediate future of the club in that trade, as they received a third-round selection in this year’s draft, and a fifth-round pick in 2016. Really, why should they be? The Blackhawks don’t have to make any major moves at the deadline, especially a knee-jerk trade because their division rival did so. Chicago has scored the most goals in the NHL this season, and have a Norris trophy front-runner leading a gifted, deep defense. With Corey Crawford playing at top form, the Blackhawks can continue their path to a second straight Stanley Cup.
It seems that the Blackhawks and Blues are on a collision course in the Playoffs this season, if the Blues can get past the first round on their third try in the past three years. It will be a great match-up: Miller vs. the league’s most powerful offense. Dream on, ‘Hawks fans, because that possible playoff series is still over a month away. For the time being, don’t expect to see many new faces in Chicago this season, aside from one Teuvo Teravainen.
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