Duncan Keith saw the news, as did several of his Chicago Blackhawks teammates, before their practice at Soldier Field on Friday afternoon: The rival St. Louis Blues acquired goaltender Ryan Miller and forward Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres in a blockbuster deal.
“They’re loading up, it looks like,” Keith said. “So we’ll see.”
Indeed, the Blues are loading up, bolstering their roster to bolster their chances of winning a Stanley Cup. The Blues have been tough on the Blackhawks this season, and that could continue if St. Louis’ latest acquisitions click with the rest of its roster.
The deal obviously got the Blackhawks’ attention, as the Blues’ game has all season long. But at the end of the day, the Blackhawks have their eyes more on their performances, not the Blues’ moves.
“Obviously they improved their team, and they were a great team before the trade. But it doesn’t change our mindset,” Patrick Sharp said. “They’re a team we’re going to have to go through down the stretch here and most likely in the playoffs.”
The Blackhawks mowed through most teams during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, and that included the Blues. This season, however, the Blues have gotten the better of the series. Already manned with solid defense and goaltending — Jaroslav Halak, traded to Buffalo as part of Friday’s deal, was no slouch — the Blues have upped their scoring this season to become a formidable NHL squad. They just upped the ante on Friday.
“That’s a big move for them,” goaltender Corey Crawford said. “Obviously they get one of the better goalies in the league and they’re trying to make a push to make a run for the Cup. But we’re not too worried abut other teams. We pretty much focus on what we’re doing, where we’re at and what we need to do to be successful come playoff time.”
Coach Joel Quenneville called the Blues “a dangerous team; (it has) been all year long.” He applies that description to a lot of teams, but there’s no doubt the Blues are dangerous. And as Quenneville said of Friday’s trade, “they did all right tonight.”
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The Blues have made their moves, now they have to see how the chemistry fits, the schedule plays out and the (potential) playoff matchups align. It would be easy to say the Blues have the inside track to the Stanley Cup with Friday’s moves. Many said the same last trade deadline when the Pittsburgh Penguins, already a loaded roster, got veterans Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla at the deadline. Again, it’s partly about the moves but more about how they play out.
As eye-catching as Friday’s trade was, the Blackhawks can’t get caught up in what the Blues are doing. They’ve got themselves about which to worry.
“They’re going to pick it up, and we have to as well,” Marcus Kruger said. “We have something to work on here, and we have to get on the winning end of games again. Two losses in a row, but if we get a win here, get some confidence and we’ll be fine.”