Monday, March 10, 2014

Weekend wrap: Blues, Bruins, Kings, and more

Each Monday, we’ll wrap up three of the biggest stories from the weekend and how they’ll play into the coming week.

Miller Instinct

With apologies to Roberto Luongo and Martin St. Louis, no deadline trade is likely to have a bigger impact on the playoffs than the Blues’ acquisition of goaltender Ryan Miller in a blockbuster deal with the Sabres. The move signaled a clear “going for it” mentality in St. Louis and improved the team at a key position where it was already fairly strong.

Miller didn’t come cheap — the price seemed high when the deal was announced on February 28, and even higher once the asking prices for rentals came crashing down on deadline day. But none of that will matter if Miller turns out to be the final piece that pushes the Blues from “perennial contender” to “outright Cup favorite.”

And while that’s the sort of judgment we won’t be able to make until the playoffs, the early returns have been encouraging, as Miller immediately led St. Louis to a four-win week. After his first seven days as a Blue, Miller’s record was a tidy 4-0-0 with 1.50 GAA and .933 save percentage, the best debut by a goalie in franchise history.

And yes, small sample size, every goalie has hot steaks, etc. But it was a good week to be a Blues fan, and an even better week to be a fan of seeing teams who aren’t afraid to be aggressive on the trade market being rewarded, so let’s go with it.

The latest example came on Saturday, when the Blues traveled to Denver for a Central Division showdown with the Avalanche. It ended up being a tense defensive battle that stayed tied at zero well into the second, until Blues forward David Backes opened the scoring. Patrik Berglund added an insurance goal in the third, before Colorado’s P.A. Parenteau stuffed in a rebound to make it 2-1. Miller shut the door the rest of the way, making 26 saves and earning the game’s second star.

That win left the Blues five points up on the Avs for first place in the Central, and within one point of the Ducks for first place overall. They moved into sole possession of the league’s top spot Sunday night, with a 3-2 shootout win over the Wild. This time it was backup Brian Elliott getting the start, and he played well enough to spoil Ilya Bryzgalov’s Minnesota debut.

So with 18 games left to play, the Blues are now in position to earn just the second Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history. The first came in 2000. We, uh, won’t talk about how the goaltending turned out on that club.

>> Read the full post on Grantland

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