The St. Louis Blues are so serious about winning the Stanley Cup this season that in a blockbuster trade Feb. 28 they gave away a No. 1 goalie for a player widely considered to be a better No. 1 goalie.
It was a smart move by general manager Doug Armstrong because Ryan Miller will be the reason the Blues win the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.
Before the trade with the Buffalo Sabres, which also brought forward Steve Ott to St. Louis, the Blues had enviable depth up front and arguably the best defense corps in the NHL, with an elite top pair of Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester. They even had solid goaltending, but Armstrong found a way to upgrade at that position without damaging the roster by replacing Jaroslav Halak with Miller as part of the blockbuster with Buffalo.
Armstrong was going for a home run. He'll be thanked for it at the championship parade in downtown St. Louis.
Miller joined the Blues approximately six weeks ago with a rejuvenated attitude and a hunger to win. He feels like he won the lottery by getting out of a rebuilding situation in Buffalo to join a Cup-contending team. He has made the Blues a better team, which is impressive considering they were already pretty darn good.
Miller, though, is only part of the equation. The Blues have been building toward this season's Stanley Cup Playoffs since Ken Hitchcock assumed the reins early in the 2011-12 season.
Hitchcock led the Blues to the 2012 playoffs (they went 43-15-11 in 69 games after he arrived), but they were swept out of the Western Conference Semifinals by the Los Angeles Kings, who went on to win the Cup. St. Louis returned to the playoffs last season, but ran into the Kings again, this time in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, and got bounced in six games.
Blues fans need not worry yet about the Kings, as the new playoff format won't allow the Blues to face the Kings until the Western Conference Final, if at all. Even if a rematch were to happen, St. Louis is better equipped to handle Los Angeles, or any team it faces, because of its depth, experience, and Miller.
The Blues don't have an elite scorer, but they are one of the top scoring teams in the NHL because they play a tight-checking, possession game, and are good at capitalizing on their chances. They roll four lines and three defense pairs, and get production from throughout the lineup. They had 13 players, including 10 forwards, with 25 or more points.
As for experience, the Blues' core, featuring captain David Backes and leading scorers T.J. Oshie and Alexander Steen, has been together since before Hitchcock. Bouwmeester, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz joined the core last season. Ott and Derek Roy have fit in this season.
Miller brings a healthy amount of playoff experience to the club. He played in the Eastern Conference Final in 2006 and 2007, and has appeared in 47 postseason games, with 25 wins.
He'll add 16 more this season.